Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses

Homemade Baci
Homemade Baci
Nothing says “I love you” like homemade Baci.

 

We shot 3 new video episodes yesterday. Don’t miss any of my new YouTube cooking shows released every Saturday. Subscribe today.

Even though I was busy shooting I had time to make these too.

Perugina Baci, the chocolate covered hazelnut kisses with little love notes tucked inside are a must for Valentine’s Day.

Why not have fresh? Make your own with this simple recipe. Even you guys can make this one for someone special. And if you don’t want to write your own note go to Perugina for love note ideas.

I was inspired by this video clip to show you how to make baci.

My friend and superb teacher Viola Buitoni sold out her Valentine’s Day event at the SF Italian Cultural Institute. Her family started Perugina Chocolate in Perugia and have been making baci they invented since 1922. Call the Institute. Sometimes you can score a ticket if someone cancels. If you get lucky you’ll learn how Viola makes baci and hear her family stories.

If you need Valentine inspiration here are some other suggetions for that special day. Stay home and cook. The restaurants will all be insane.

Make my romantic spaghetti in a pocket or how about super easy baked ziti. If you insist on going out here are some romantic North Beach restaurant suggestions.

And if you want to get a little weepy read how a parental spat created an accidental heart when I was growing up in Jersey.

Don’t forget to add love notes to your baci gifts.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Buon appetito!

Baci: Make Chocolate Hazelnut Valentine Kisses
 
Homemade chocolate & hazelnut baci. These kisses are easy to make. If you like intense chocolate flavor with roasted hazelnuts this one's for you.
Author:
Recipe type: Candy
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts, roasted
  • 6½ ounces Nutella or chocolate-hazlenut butter if you want organic
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Roast the hazelnuts in a 425 oven for 10 minutes. Remove the skin from the nut.
  2. Set 20 whole hazelnuts aside.
  3. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor to break the nuts into small pieces or chop them by hand.
  4. Put the chopped hazelnuts, the Nutella and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  5. Mix them well with a spatula to form a smooth dough.
  6. Form 20 balls and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently push a whole hazelnut on top of every ball. (If the dough gets too hard to shape chill it in the freezer.)
  7. Place the sheet in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  9. Dip the chilled “baci” into the melted chocolate. (I hold it on a fork in the chocolate and spoon chocolate on top to cover it all over.)
  10. Put the baci back on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. Allow them to dry a few minutes. (If the baci aren't firming up well put them in the freezer for a few minutes.)

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

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Spinach and ricotta cannelloni will take you to my childhood in Northern Jersey.
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni will take you to my childhood in Northern Jersey.

Growing up in northern Jersey when my Mom took out her small black cast iron pan Sunday morning we knew we were in for a treat.

She was getting ready to make crespelle (crepes) for her fantastic spinach and ricotta stuffed cannelloni (big pipes).

The crispy and creamy cannelloni hot from the oven would be the pasta course for our Sunday dinner.

Don’t give me a hard time with the cannelloni versus manicotti thing. In Italian-American restaurants these are called manicotti but in Italy especially around Naples this dish is cannelloni.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s get back to the recipe.

With a hot well-oiled small saute pan, a flat griddle pan or a non-stick crepe pan you’ll find that the crespelle are easy and quick to make. You can even make the crespelle the day before and keep them in the fridge to quickly fill and bake the next day.

Make a simple San Marzano-basil tomato sauce so that the cannelloni aren’t overwhelmed. The tasty crespelle are the perfect tender wrapper for the creamy spinach-ricotta filling with melted mozzarella on top.

I usually serve two cannelloni topped with a little extra sauce to each guest. If any cannelloni  are left over I have been known to eat one or two more. They are absolutely delicious.

Watch me make a fresh San Marzano tomato sauce during the late summer harvest. You can substitute canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy for fresh so you can make the marinara sauce all year long.

And if you want to make fresh pasta instead of crespelle for the cannelloni watch me make fresh pasta ravioli for inspiration.

Buon appetito!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
For the Crespelle (makes about 18)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups (or more) whole milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil for brushing the crepe pan
For the Filling
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or 2 10 ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 pound ricotta, well drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Crespelle Topping
  • 8-ounces mozzarella, grated
  • ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
Sauce
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, stems and skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the Sauce
  1. Put a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil and garlic.
  3. Saute the garlic for a minute or so. You don't want it to pick up any color, just infuse the oil with its flavor.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir well.
  5. Add sea salt to taste and the basil.
  6. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat if needed.
  7. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the volume is reduced by 25%.
  8. Keep the sauce warm while you make and bake the cannelloni.
For the Crespelle
  1. Whisk eggs and salt in large bowl.
  2. Gradually whisk in flour, then 1¼ cups milk.
  3. Whisk until the batter is very smooth and has no big clumps of flour.
  4. If necessary, add more milk by tablespoons to batter to thin to consistency of heavy whipping cream.
  5. Heat 8-inch diameter nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Pour 3 tablespoons batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly.
  7. Cook until top appears dry, loosening sides of crepe with spatula, about 45 seconds.
  8. Turn and cook until brown spots appear on second side, about 30 seconds.
  9. Turn crepe out onto plate.
  10. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with EVOO and stacking crepes on plate.
For the Filling
  1. Put the spinach in a pot over medium-high heat and add ½ cup water
  2. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
  3. Drain the spinach.
  4. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can.
  5. Roughly chop the spinach.
  6. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Assembly
  1. In a large baking dish put ¼ cup of the sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish.
  2. Lay the crespelle on a flat work surface.
  3. Put about 3-4 tablespoons at one end of each crespelle and roll it up.
  4. Place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  5. Repeat until all the crespelle are filled.
  6. Top the cannelloni with a light layer of sauce.
  7. Top the sauce evenly with the mozzarella and then the parmigiano.
  8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Uncover and bake until the mozzarella on top of the cannelloni is melted and slightly browned, about 10 minutes more.
  10. Let the cannelloni cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Gianni’s Tip: I made crespelle (crepes) for this stuffed pasta dish but fresh pasta sheets, no-cook lasagna sheets or dried manicotti (big sleeves) or large shells work just as well with this filling.

Cook the dried pasta in boiling water until al dente before filling.

The no-cook lasagna sheets should be soaked in hot water until they are pliable and the fresh lasagna sheets need to be cooked in boiling water. Either way put in the sheets in a single layer on kitchen towels until they are cut into 6 to 8-inch squares and filled.

If you have any cannelloni left over they are even better heated in the oven the next day. You can freeze them too.

Pork Chops with Peppers, Onions & Potatoes

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Pork chops with peppers, onions and potatoes
Pork chops with peppers, onions and potatoes–a real Italian-American classic!

If you’ve been on the East Coast for St. Joseph’s Day or any other feast day where they had the outdoor parade and set up the booths, you probably had a version of this dish in a sandwich. We used to call it, no matter who the saint was, the Feast of Sausage and Peppers because  there would be all these booths grilling the sausage. And they used the same combination of ingredients as in this dish.

This is a versatile one-pan dish. I made it with pork chops but it works just as well with sausage or your favorite cuts of chicken. Come to think of it this wouldn’t be bad with firm tofu slices instead of meat. You can have dinner on your table in way less than an hour and clean up is a breeze.

The trick to this one-pan dish is to cook the ingredients separately and then put everything back in the pan with a simple pan sauce to finish cooking.

If you want an easy meal jam-packed with flavor and texture this one’s for you. The golden crusted tender pork chops are delicious all by themselves. But wait there’s more. Add some sweet carmelized onions, bell and cherry vinegar pepper to every bite and your taste buds will be in full swing. Then there are the golden potatoes with the creamy interior. But my secret ingredient is my homemade vinegar, which is made from a over 100 year old mother from Burgundy, France. When the mother gets a little bit bigger, I’m going to start sharing it because you can break off a teaspoonful and give it to somebody else with a little vinegar in it. Then they can start making their own. But you can use store bought vinegar for this dish if you’re not lucky enough to have homemade.

What more could you hope for and it all came out of just one pan.

If you like this recipe watch my scallopine video episode to see how to make scallopine alla Sorrentina and 13 other scallopine dishes.

Yeah, that’s 14 scallopine variations all in one episode. I was feeling generous the day we shot that one.

Keep on cooking for your family and friends and for yourself too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pork Chops with Cherry Peppers & Potatoes
 
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Pork chops, onions, peppers and golden potatoes all cooked in one pan to create a plateful of deliciousness.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 center cut pork chops
  • 2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, parboiled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large dice
  • ½ onion, thickly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 4 small sweet vinegar cherry peppers (or any other pepper packed in vinegar), seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, depending on your taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slit the fat on the edge of the chop in several places. (This will keep the chop from curling while cooking.)
  2. Liberally sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Put a large cast iron or saute pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  4. When the oil starts to ripple, put the potatoes in the pan in a single layer and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  5. Brown the potatoes on both sides. Set them aside on a large plate or platter.
  6. Add the pork chops to the pan. (Do not crowd the pork chops or they will steam rather than brown.)
  7. Leave the chops alone. When you have a nice brown crust on the chops, usually within 5 minutes, turn the chops over and cook the other side for about 3 minutes. (You do not need a nice brown crust on the second side because it will not be the presentation side of the pork chop so do not overcook the chops. The chops should be barely pink inside.)
  8. Sear the fat on the side of the chop if you want to cook some fat off and get some color on the side.
  9. Remove the chops from the pan and tent with foil to keep them warm. Set the chops aside.
  10. If the pan has too much fat pour some out and if it is too dry add a bit more oil.
  11. Add the onions and red bell pepper and sprinkle with salt.
  12. Saute until the onions take on some color and the bell pepper is soft.
  13. Add the cherry peppers and garlic; mix everything together and cook for a minute or two more.
  14. Add the vinegar and mix well.
  15. Take everything out of the pan, raise the heat to high and add the white wine.
  16. Scrape off the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and simmer until the wine is reduced in volume by ⅓.
  17. Put the chops, vegetables and any juices back in the pan to reheat briefly.
  18. Place the chops on a serving platter either covered by or surrounded by the potatoes, onions and cherry peppers.
  19. If there is any sauce left in the pan pour it evenly over the chops and vegetables.
  20. Serve immediately.

 

Il Casaro: North Beach’s New Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar

Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon
Il Casaro on Columbus Opening Soon

Ever had panmozza?

You won’t have to go to Napoli to eat some when Il Casaro Pizzeria and Mozzarella Bar opens in a week or two after a final inspection.

Francesco Cavucci who owns the wonderful Calabrian restaurant on Green Street and his partner Peter Fazio have put together a casual place with an impressive white Italian marble bar in the former Steps of Rome space on Columbus right across from Molinari’s.

“We’re celebrating the food of Naples,” Francesco told me this morning.

I was ecstatic.

Since both Pulcinella and Caffe Macaroni Sciue Sciue closed a few years ago North Beach hasn’t had a real Neapolitan spot.

“We making true Neapolitan pizza and our own mozzarella & buratta that you can eat while it’s still warm,” he said with a big smile on his face.

Francesco beamed more brightly when he told me “And we’re making panmozza found everywhere on the streets of Napoli.”

Panmozza are folded sandwiches made with a pizza dough that has shreds of mozzarella kneaded into the dough. Add your favorite sandwich goodies, fold over the dough and bake in a hot oven.

Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro's beehive oven
Francesco Cavutti and Il Casaro’s beehive oven

Il Casaro’s pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is certified by the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza in Naples.

In fact, the whole operation is certified.

You gotta use San Marzano tomatoes, certain mozzarella and zero-zero flour. The dough mixer for proper dough aeration and the wood-burning beehive oven have to be certified by the Association too.

I applaud the efforts to keep the traditional ways pure.

“This will be a casual neighborhood place where you can drop in every day,” Francesco said.

I can’t wait for Il Casaro to open.

I’ll be sitting at the bar right in front of the red beehive oven eating my panmozza.

You should drop in too. I’ll let you know when the doors finally swing open. And maybe I’ll post a panmozza recipe too.

Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili

Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan black kale will make you want to devour your veggies!

Don’t miss the next recipe video: Subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

I love leafy vegetables cooked using this easy steam/saute method. You can have delicious and healthy vegetables on your table in about 15 minutes.

Heat up olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a big pan. Throw in the leafy greens and coat them all with the oil. Add a little water and bring it to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan.

In a few minutes take off the lid and let the water evaporate. Saute the wilted greens in the garlic-infused oil until they’re tender.

All of the healthy vegetable goodness stays in the pan and the perfectly cooked tender greens flecked with garlic and chili flake glisten in the sheen of the olive oil.

Choose your favorite leafy vegetable, chard, brocolli rabe, escarole. But don’t be limited to greens. The steam/saute method works with most vegetables.

I cooked a vegetable with many names. Black kale because of its color. Dino(saur) kale because of the large leaf’s rough surface. Tuscan kale from the region in Italy where it is a favored ingredient for ribollita, the famous Tuscan twice boiled soup.

Call it what you want. Just make some soon. It’s vegan, Mediterranean, and if you leave out the bread, it’s even paleo!

The intense slightly bitter kale flavor is mellowed by the buttery olive oil. The heat of the chili flake warms your throat with each swallow.

Eat a bowl of kale as a light lunch or serve it as a side for your main course. Have a hunk of crusty bread handy to sop up the sauce that’s left on the plate.

Italians eat fantastic food but the Mediterranean Diet, most prominent in southern Italy, is healthy as well. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits locally grown and in season, legumes, nuts and grains. I love fish. Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice. I eat meat in moderation and sweets from time to time.

My meals are delicious and nutritious. Yours can be too.

So eat your vegetables! Roast some sausage to serve with steam/sauteed broccoli rabe for a complete meal. Or for something entirely different make a green bean and red onion salad.

Gianni’s Tip: I removed the thick tough stem at the base of each kale leaf. I saved the stems as I do with all my vegetable trimmings. Set the trimmings aside and throw them in the pot the next time you make a broth or soup for extra flavor. If you don’t use the trimmings immediately, just bag them and put them in the freezer for later.

Use it all up. Head towards zero waste in your kitchen. You’ll be happy and the planet will be too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili
 
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Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of kale (look for "Lacinato" on the tag) or your favorite leafy vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Wash the kale well.
  2. Cut out the tough stem as the bottom of each leaf.
  3. Cut the kale into 2 inch ribbons.
  4. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  5. Add the kale and sea salt to taste.
  6. Pour in the water, bring to a rapid simmer, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  7. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

 

Mama’s on the Move in North Beach

Is the Piazza Market space a new Mama's?
Is the Piazza Market space a new Mama’s?

You know Mama’s at Stockton/Filbert across from Washington Square. It’s the one with ridiculously long lines winding up Stockton everyone waiting to get a fantastic breakfast or lunch.

The family behind Mama’s plans to open a second location in the long abandoned Piazza Market space on Vallejo around the corner from Molinari’s.

The Mama’s and Lil Mama’s space plans have been in the window for months now but I didn’t see any work going on inside so I thought the deal was stalled or dead.

But Paolo Lucchesi’s Chronicle item says the deal is happening. The Sanchez family signed a lease. Here are the Inside Scoop details.

Mama's restaurant plans
Mama’s restaurant plans

The space has a retail permit so the Lil Mama’s Market plans could be ready to go.

No so fast for the restaurant operation. The application for a restaurant permit has been filed. They’re tough to snag in North Beach.

With no neighborhood opposition I hope the permit issues quickly. No more long lines for breakfast.

Lil Mama's specialty grocery store plans
Lil Mama’s specialty grocery store plans

But I’m most excited about Lil Mama’s Market, the retail specialty grocery store part of the operation.

For months I was wondering what those merchandize cubbies in the drawing would hold.

Mama’s baked goodies and jams and an array of curated (ala Bi-Rite Market) local produce and food products too.

I can’t wait for this new North Beach treasure to open.

Tortellini in Brodo: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth

Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo–don’t forget the parmigiano reggiano!

I always have to satisfy a variety of diets at my table. A recent lunch gathering was no exception – vegetarians amongst the meat eaters! But, I had a strategy…

My method for vegetable sides, sauces or soups is to start with the universal base.

In the video I explain how to stage the cooking so that you end up with a vegetarian version of tortellini in brodo, and a roasted meat and vegetable stuffed tortellini in a chicken brodo, too.

It’s a traditional dish from Emilia-Romagna, the region of Italy around Bologna, called the “culinary heart” of Italia.

They’re famous for stuffed pasta among many other culinary wonders – mortadella (the original bologna), parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto and balsamic among them.

The tortellini’s rich roasted meat and vegetable stuffing is enrobed in a silky yet toothsome pasta skin. Scoop one up in your spoon filled with the delicate deep-flavored chicken broth and you’ll be in heaven.

Watch me make fresh pasta to use for the tortellini.

Buon appetito!

Tortellini in Brodo Recipe 2 Ways: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Itaian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Brodo
  • 1 onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 rib celery, cut in chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pound chicken parts
Tortellini Filling
  • 8 ounces pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces pancetta, (thick slice) cubed
  • 2 ounces mortadella (thick slice), cubed
  • 11/2 teaspoons crumbled dried porcini
  • 1 small onion, cut in small pieces
  • 1 rib of celery, cut in small pieces
  • 1 small carrot, cut in small pieces
  • 11/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 stem of rosemary, leaves only
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pasta
  • (Watch me make the pasta dough in my fresh ravioli video episode.)
Instructions
Brodo
  1. Put a big pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil.
  3. When the oil begins to ripple add the onion, carrot, and celery.
  4. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent. (You don't want the vegetables to pick up any color.)
  5. Add the water and bring the pot to a gentle boil.
  6. (For the vegetarian version let the vegetable broth cook for about 20 minutes and set some aside before adding the chicken.)
  7. Add the chicken and cook until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
  8. Strain all of the ingredients over a big bowl to collect the broth.
  9. Over medium-high heat return the broth to the low boil.
Filling
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the pork, mortadella, pancetta, all the vegetables, and rosemary in a shallow baking pan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything well.
  4. Add the water to the pan.
  5. Roast in the oven until everything is knife tender and browned.
  6. (For the vegetarian version roast the vegetables and meats in separate roasting dishes and mince only the vegetables in the food processor, add the egg, parmigiano and nutmeg to stuff the vegetarian tortellini.)
  7. When the roasted pork and vegetables have cooled put everything in a food processor bowl and pulse until everything is minced well.
  8. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the egg, nutmeg and parmigiano and mix well.
Pasta
  1. Use the recipe for ravioli on gianni.tv. Watch me make it at http://www.gianni.tv/fresh-pasta-ricotta-ravioli-in-a-san-marzano-sauce/
Making the torellini
  1. Lay out a long fresh pasta sheet.
  2. Cut the sheet in 3-inch squares.
  3. Wet the edges of each square with water. (I use dip my thumb in a bowl of water.)
  4. Add ½ teaspoon of the filling near a tip of square.
  5. Fold over the other half of the square and pinch the seam to tightly close it.
  6. Wrap the tortellini around your finger, pull the 2 ends together and squeeze the ends together.
  7. Put the tortellini on a floured kitchen towel. Make sure they don't touch or they'll stick together.
  8. When the broth is at a low boil add the tortellini and stir them so they don't stick. (The tortellini are delicate so you don't want a rapid boil.)
  9. When the tortellini raise to the surface let them roll in the boil for about a minute and they should be al dente and ready to come out. (Eat one if you're not sure they're done.)
  10. Serve immediately with grated parmigiano for your guests to sprinkle on top of each bowl.

 

 

Pasta with Prawns & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Recipe

Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce
Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce

I love the intense sweet roasted red bell pepper flavor of this quick sauce.

It’s a perky fresh topping for chicken, meat or fish and fantastic as a sauce for pasta.

I’m using it to dress strozzapreti (choke the priest) pasta and prawns.

Roasted pepper sauce is easy to make in the food processor. The prawns fry up quickly.

Once you have the roasted peppers you can have this dish on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta water. OK, maybe a few minutes more.

The sauce is sweet, the prawns crunchy, briny and tender. The toasted pinoli adds a nutty note and the paprika a smoky sparkling hot finish to every bite.

The intense flavors meld really well and are brightened by the fresh basil. A little sweet, a little hot and complex.  I couldn’t stop eating this really simple pasta and shrimp dish. Don’t think we’ll have any leftover today.

Be sure to subscribe to Gianni’s YouTube channel so you don’t miss the new video episodes from Hungry Village. The first of the new Gianni’s North Beach series is coming real soon.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

Roasted Pepper Sauce for Shrimp & Pasta Recipe
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) strozzapreti or you favorite short dried pasta
  • 12 large prawns, shelled and deveined
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • 2 large red bell peppers (or use jarred drained & rinsed well)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ onion, cut in half and then in thirds
  • ¼ cup toasted pinoli
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Prawns
  • Flour for dusting
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Roast the peppers on an open flame atop your stove or in the oven at 425 until the skin is charred all over.
  3. If roasting atop the stove put the charred peppers on a plate and cover with a bowl for about 5 minutes.
  4. When the peppers are cool enough to handle remove the charred skin, stem, and seeds.
  5. Scrape off the remaining charred skin and seeds and trim any large membranes.
  6. Cut the roasted peppers in pieces.
  7. Put them in the food processor bowl.
  8. Saute the onion in a large pan over medium heat until translucent.
  9. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  10. Put the onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts, roasted peppers, paprika, olive oil, and sea salt and black pepper to taste in the processor bowl.
  11. Process to a paste consistency.
  12. Add enough water or broth to bring the paste to sauce consistency.
  13. Put the saute pan back over medium-high heat. Add more oil if necessary to fry the prawns.
  14. Dust the prawns with flour, sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
  15. When the oil is hot, saute the prawns until the first side is golden, about 2 minutes or so.
  16. Turn the prawns over and carmelize the second side, about a minute more. The prawns should be firm to the touch.
  17. Put the prawns on paper towel to drain.
  18. Pour out any excess oil in the sauté pan if needed and over medium heat warm the saute panl.
  19. Add the roasted pepper sauce and sauteed prawns back to the saute pan and warm the sauce and prawns over medium-low heat as the pasta finishes cooking. (Sink the prawns into the sauce while they warm.)
  20. Add the torn fresh basil to the sauce.
  21. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix to coat all the pasta and prawns with the roasted pepper sauce.
  22. Arrange the prawns atop of the strozzapreti.
  23. Drizzle a little good finishing extra virgin olive oil.
  24. Serve immediately.

 

Pizza Maker’s Meatloaf Recipe

A zesty meatloaf with your favorite pizza toppings
A zesty meatloaf with your favorite pizza toppings

A pizzaiola (pizza-maker) always has tomato, mozzarella, pecorino, basil and oregano on hand so why not make a meatloaf?

Got 30 minutes? Then you have time to make this tasty meatloaf.

Everything goes into casserole dish and bakes in the oven for 20 minutes.

A variation of my meatloaf recipe forms the pizza “crust”. Top it with chopped San Marzano tomatoes right out of the can, the herbs and cheeses and bake it in a hot oven.

Serve the pizza meatloaf with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread and you have a meal in about a half-hour.

The crusty tender meatloaf is the perfect base for this pizza with a tangy gooey tomato & mozzarella topping.

I like to make sure I have meatloaf leftover. Just heat up a slice or make a sandwich for a quick meal. The meatloaf is even better the next day.

Buon appetito!

Pizza-Maker's Meatloaf Recipe
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound of chopped beef
  • 2 ounces pancetta, finely diced
  • 2 slices stale bread, soaked in water or milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated pecorino
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, ripped in pieces
  • sea salt and freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 cup canned San Marzano tomato
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Squeeze out the water from the soaking stale bread.
  3. Put the beef, eggs, bread, 3-tablespoons of the grated pecorino, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the ingredients well with your hands or a spatula.
  5. Put the meatloaf mixture in a well-buttered 10-inch round casserole or pie dish.
  6. Pat the meatloaf down to form a "crust" on the bottom and about 2-inches up the side of the dish.
  7. Cover the top of the meatloaf with the chopped tomatoes.
  8. Scatter the ripped basil and sprinkle the oregano over the tomatoes.
  9. Scatter the mozzarella evenly over the tomatoes.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining grated pecorino on top of the mozzarella.
  11. Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and the cheese on top is melted.
  12. Let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes before serving,

 

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
 
Prep time
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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.

 

Christmas Eve Focaccia in North Beach

Waiting for Liguria Bakery's fantastic focaccia
Waiting for Liguria Bakery’s fantastic focaccia

Everyone’s out this morning to get the last few items they need for their holiday table.

The lines are out the door at North Beach’s Molinari Deli and Victoria Pastry.

Look at all those hopeful people in line at 100-year old Liguria Bakery trying to score some focaccia for Christmas Eve dinner.

Liguria will run out of focaccia soon and those still in line will have to go without. If they lock the door before you get inside why not make some focaccia for yourself.

Here are 2 recipes, one for tomato and onion focaccia and one for a walnut and grape focaccia.

I’m making some pizza for tonight’s dinner. Why don’t you too? Make a margherita pizza or make a gorgonzola, prosciutto and pear pizza. They will both add sizzle to your holiday table.

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale. Happy Holidays.

 

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.