Spinach Pies–My Bridge to Italy

Spinach Pies from Naples via Providence RI
Spinach Pies from Naples via Providence RI

Making spinach pies today is a culinary bridge from the States to my upcoming temporary home in Naples.

The filling is inspired by the  “Wimpy Skippy,” a crowd-pleaser from Caserta Pizzeria on Providence’s Federal Hill, an Italian-American bastion.

I’ll find variations of spinach pies, called calzone in Italy, with all kinds of fillings when I’m in Naples. Neapolitans often fry calzone but I’m baking mine instead.

If you don’t want to make your own pizza dough, buy some at the market. Making the filling and the assembly are super easy.

Watch my pizza dough recipe to see how I make one pound of dough that will make 4 big calzone.

The golden tender crust has a nutty flavor. Garlic scents the sauteed spinach filling. Oozing mozzarella tamps down the heat from the pepperoni. A meal in a tidy envelope.

I hope my next post will be one of the 2 episodes we shot recently in North Beach. I’m shooting video in Roma next week with my friend Luca and his crew. We’ll post those episodes too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Spinach Pies
 
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Spinach pies or spinach calzones are encased in pizza dough. These are stuffed with spinach sauteed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, topped with pepperoni and fresh mozzarella then baked in the oven.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Spinach Stuffing
  • 4 cups cooked spinach, chopped
  • ⅓ cup black olives, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 16 pepperoni slices
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Instructions
  1. Set your oven to its highest setting. (Mine goes to 550 degrees.)
  2. Put a skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic.
  3. Heat the oil and cook the garlic until it just starts to pick up some color.
  4. Add the black olives and stir well.
  5. Add the spinach and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix all the ingredients well.
  6. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
  7. If your using my pizza dough recipe, cut the dough into 4 pieces.
  8. On a well-floured board roll out the 4 dough pieces into thin rounds, about 10 inches in diameter. Or, form the rounds using your hands to stretch the dough.
  9. Starting in the middle, but ¼ of the spinach stuffing on the dough and spread it towards the rim leaving one inch border without the stuffing.
  10. Top the stuffing with 4 pepperoni slices and cover with sliced mozzarella.
  11. Fold the top half of the dough over the stuffing to form a turnover shape.
  12. Pinch the dough around the edge with your fingers to tightly seal the spinach pie.
  13. Using a pizza peel, slide each spinach pie on a pizza stone and bake until the dough is golden on top, about 8-10 minutes.
  14. (You can bake the pies on a cookie sheet brushed with olive oil if you like.)
  15. Take the spinach pies out of the oven and cool for a minute or two on a wired rack.
  16. Serve the spinach pies whole or cut in half.
  17. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
  18. (You can make the spinach pies ahead an heat them in a 375 degree oven for about 3 minutes.)

 

Meatballs Neapolitan Style

Meatballs from Napoli
Meatballs from Napoli

My trip to Italy is fast approaching. I wanted to do a couple of posts before I leave and the dishes had to be simple.

Meat-eaters love meatballs. These are from Naples and may be a bit different than what you’re used to eating here in the States. My Mom made them this way once in a while.

Usually for meatballs I use a combination of beef, pork and veal ground together but this time I’m only using beef. The addition of raisins and toasted pine nuts adds flavor dimension and texture to the meatballs.

The spicy meatballs are fork-tender. The sweetness of the raisins in tempered by the basil tomato sauce. The soft crunch of the toasted pine nuts is a welcome surprise. Simply delicious.

You can serve the meatballs with a vegetable or salad and with or without tomato sauce. I like them both ways. Don’t get too fancy though, the meatballs should be the star of your light lunch or dinner.

Use the tomato sauce to dress pasta or save it to use another time.

Keep an eye out for my 2 new video episodes that we shot in North Beach before I headed to Italy. I’ll spend 2 days shooting video in Rome. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of new episodes of my shopping and cooking from my apartment kitchen in the heart of Roma.

Buon appetito!

Meatballs Neapolitan Style
 
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Meatballs from the heart of Naples, flavored with garlic, pecorino, raisins and pine nuts served with or without tomato sauce
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cups cubed dried crustless bread
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for frying (or use your favorite frying oil)
  • Tomato Sauce (Optional)
  • 1 28-ounce can imported San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Soak the bread in water.
  2. Add all of the ingredients (except the oil) into a mixing bowl.
  3. Squeeze the bread to get rid of the water then break it up and add it to the bowl.
  4. Blend the mix well with your hands (or a fork). (I squish it in my hands until the mixture is very well blended.)
  5. Take about a ⅓ cup of the mixture in your hands and roll it into a ball.
  6. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. When the oil ripples, add the meatballs.
  8. Brown the meatballs well. You want to develop a dark, firm crust all over, about 10 minutes total.
  9. Serve immediately with your favorite salad or vegetables.
  10. Tomato Sauce (Optional)
  11. Put the olive oil and garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
  12. When the garlic starts to brown add the tomatoes.
  13. Add the basil.
  14. When the tomato sauce rapidly simmers reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  15. Add the meatballs and let them warm in the sauce for about 10 minutes.
  16. Serve the meatballs immediately topped with a bit more of the tomato sauce.
  17. Makes about 12 meatballs.
  18. (You can use the tomato sauce for pasta or save it for another use.)

If you want to serve the meatballs with tomato sauce, here’s a simple recipe that will be ready in about 30 minutes.

 

Pasta & Chickpea Soup (Pasta e Ceci)

Pasta e ceci, pasta with chickpeas is a toothy, delicious soup from Rome
Pasta e ceci, pasta with chickpeas is a toothy, delicious soup from Rome

I’ll be in Rome and Naples soon so I’ve been cooking dishes from both cities to get ready for the trip.

Here’s another Roman favorite that would be at home in Naples as well. The Romans prefer long pasta in their chickpea soup and the Neapolitans prefer short pasta.

My Mom made it with ditali, a short pasta tube. I made this one with broken taglierini, a long flat pasta.

Smashed potato thickens the garlic and rosemary infused tomato broth. The chickpeas add meaty texture to the silky pasta. This soup is really satisfying and it’s good for you too.

Sometimes pasta e ceci will be lunch with a hunk of rustic bread and maybe a small salad.

While I’m in Rome, my friend Luca and his crew will shoot my shopping trips to Campo di Fiori and other neighborhood markets and me cooking in my apartment kitchen near the Spanish Steps. It should be an adventure. I’m a little nervous.

To get you in the mood for the shoots from Italia, we’ll soon post 2 episodes we shot a couple of weeks ago at Cookhouse here in North Beach, a Roman treat and a meal in a pouch from the Bay of Naples.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Pasta & Chickpea Soup (Pasta e Ceci)
 
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Pasta e ceci is a simple Italian peasant chickpea soup full of flavor and texture.
Author:
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 14-ounce can imported San Marzano tomatoes, smashed by hand
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 small dried chili
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ pound taglierini or other long, flat pasta broken into 3-inch pieces.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • grated pecorino (optional)
Instructions
  1. If your using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight. Cook them in rapidly simmering water until tender, at least an hour. Save the cooking water. Canned garbanzo beans work well too.
  2. Put a large pot of well-salted water (5 quarts water, 2 tablespoons sea salt) over high and bring to a boil for the pasta. (If you don't want to clean another pot, you can cook the pasta right in the soup.)
  3. Put a soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
  4. Saute until the garlic starts to brown.
  5. Remove the garlic and rosemary.
  6. Pour the tomatoes and their juice, the chickpeas and the potatoes into the pot.
  7. Add the water to the pot. (If you cooked dry beans, use the cooking water.)
  8. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the potatoes are knife tender, about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the potatoes to a plate and roughly smash them with a fork. You want some intact small pieces too. Return the potatoes to the pot.
  10. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  11. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  12. If the soup is too thick, add some of water and bring the soup back to a simmer.
  13. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until very al dente.
  14. Drain the pasta.
  15. Add the pasta to the soup pot and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  16. Serve the soup in individual bowls immediately with a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. (In Naples, they would add a sprinkle of grated pecorino too.)

 

This may be my last dish from Rome. After Rome we’re moving to an apartment in Naples and then on to the Amalfi coast and the beach near Gaeta. I have to move south to the food of Campania. So, the recipes I post this weekend will be 2 of my favorite dishes from Naples.

Roman Stewed Spring Vegetables

La Vignarola, Roman stewed spring vegetables
La Vignarola, Roman stewed spring vegetables

La Vignarola, stewed spring vegetables, is a simple dish that’s a real crowd-pleaser in Rome this time of year and you can be eating some in about 30 minutes.

Quickly braise each of the 3 spring vegetables separately. Brown guanciale or pancetta with a little extra virgin olive oil. Add the vegetables to the pan along with some of the cooking liquid to make a light broth.

When everything is heated through put the vegetables on a serving platter. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and your ready to eat. Serve La Vignarola as a side-dish or as a first course with a hunk of rustic bread to sop up the flavorful broth.

The sweetness of the peas is mellowed by the meaty fava beans and tender sliced artichoke hearts. With your first bite you know spring has arrived.

I’ll be in Roma soon and my Roman friend Luca and his crew will shoot a couple of episodes while I shop the outdoor markets and cook in our apartment kitchen near the Spanish Steps. You might have noticed I’ve been cooking Roman dishes lately to get in the groove.

We shot 2 new episodes last week at Cookhouse in North Beach as a run-up to my Italy trip. Watch me making a Roman favorite for your antipasti or afternoon snack (uno spuntino) and a classic main course from Naples. We’ll post the first one real soon.

Buon appetito!

Roman Stewed Spring Vegetables
 
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La Vignarola, stewed artichokes, fava beans and peas Roman-style.
Author:
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 small artichokes
  • 2 pounds fava beans
  • 2 pounds spring peas
  • 2 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 green onions
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl of water. As you clean the artichokes, put them in the acidulated water until your ready to braise them all. (This keeps the artichokes from oxidizing and turning brown.)
  2. Pull off the tough outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to leaves that are light green-yellow in color.
  3. Cut off the dark top of the artichoke.
  4. Cut off the stem evenly and peel off any green tough skin on the artichoke base.
  5. With a spoon, scoop out the choke (small purple leaves and fuzzy center) in the middle of artichoke. (If your using baby artichokes, they won't have developed a choke yet.)
  6. Shell the peas and set aside in a bowl.
  7. Shell the fava beans, remove the skin and set aside in a bowl.
  8. Put a cup of water in a small pot over medium-high heat and add the artichokes.
  9. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  10. Braise the artichokes until they are knife tender, about 10 minutes.
  11. With a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  12. Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the fava beans.
  13. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  14. Braise the fava beans until tender, about 7 minutes. (Don't over cook the fava beans or they'll lose their bright green color.)
  15. With a slotted spoon, remove the fava beans to the bowl with the artichokes.
  16. Add more water to the pot if necessary, raise the heat to medium-high and add the peas.
  17. When the water boils cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low.
  18. Braise the peas until tender, about 5 minutes. (Don't over cook the peas or they'll lose their bright green color.)
  19. With a slotted spoon, remove the peas to the bowl with the other vegetables.
  20. Save the vegetable cooking water.
  21. Cut the artichokes in half and cut the artichoke half in 1-inch slices and put the slices back in the bowl with the other vegetables.
  22. Slice the green onions in 1-inch pieces.
  23. Cut the guanciale or pancetta into 1-inch cubes.
  24. Put another pan over medium-high heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  25. When the oil is hot add the guaciale or pancetta and brown.
  26. Add the green onions and cook until soft.
  27. Lower the heat to meidum-low, add the artichokes, fava beans and peas to the pan along with 1 cup of the vegetable cooking water.
  28. Simmer until the vegetables are heated through.
  29. Put the vegetables on a serving platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste and a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.
  30. Serve immediately.

 

4 North Beach Sandwiches on 2 Top 10 Lists

Molinari Deli on Columbus
Molinari Deli on Columbus

4 North Beach places own top spots in 2 recent San Francisco best sandwich lists.

Molinari’s and Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store are on both lists, Eater SF’s Most Iconic Sandwiches and Sean Timberlake’s Citysearch Guide’s Best Italian Sandwiches.

Giordano Brothers and L’osteria del Forno are on Timberlake’s list too.

Stop in Molinari’s to get a Renzo Special (prosciutto, coppa “hot or mild” fresh mozzarella, with sun dried tomatoes). Be sure to take a number as you enter the deli. Grab your choice of bread for your sandwich from the bin while you’re waiting for your number to be called.

Head to Mario’s on Washington Square Park for a meatball sandwich oozing melted cheese and marinara sauce on focaccia from Liguria Bakery just across the Square.

Giordano Brother’s “all-in-one” sandwich is an homage to a Pittsburgh tradition, stuffing a truck driver’s whole meal between 2 slices of bread so he can eat lunch behind the wheel. North Beach’s Italian-French Bakery bread holds your meat and cheese picks, delicious french fries and oil & vinegar coleslaw.

L’osteria del Forno house-made focaccia sandwiches can’t be beat. If you want a bigger meal their simple, Tuscan food will not disappoint.

And Eater SF’s downtown pick near my office, Sentinel’s corned beef focaccia sandwich never fails to sate my lunchtime deli cravings. The Sentinel is a street front walk-in for take-out only.

Buon appetito!

Citysearch List

Eater SF List

Stracciatella–Italian Egg Drop Soup

This simple but elegant soup is at home in Rome or Naples. Little egg "rags" and spinach in chicken broth.
This simple but elegant soup is at home in Rome or Naples. Little egg “rags” and spinach in chicken broth.

After a slice of savory Pizza Rustica and some arugula salad, the first course for my Easter meal is Stracciatella, Italian egg drop soup.

Stracciatelle means “little rags” in Italian. They’re formed by whisking beaten eggs into hot chicken broth. My Mom made perfect little egg rags in her soup.

This is an elegant but terribly simple soup to make. Just heat up some chicken broth, whip in the beaten eggs to make little rags, tear in baby spinach leaves and eat.

Use your homemade chicken broth or a low-sodium broth you pick up at the market. Stracciatella will be ready in the time it takes to bring the broth to a boil.

I’m looking forward to having Stracciatella either in Roma or Napoli while I’m in Italia soon. It’s a popular dish in both cities.

The mild broth is the perfect bath for the torn tender spinach and the egg rags flavored with parmigiano and black pepper. Stracciatella is a wonderful light and flavorful first course.

Watch me making the bookends for my Easter meal, savory Pizza Rustica and sweet Pastiera Napoletana, traditional Easter deep-dish ricotta pies.

Buona Pasqua! Happy Spring!

Stracciatella--Italian Egg Drop Soup
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Italian
Cuisine: Soup
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves (rip larger ones into smaller pieces)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the broth in a circular motion.
  4. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork or whisk to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach starts to darken in color.
  6. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. (Put out some grated parmigiano and let everyone help themselves.)

 

Chicken Roman-Style with Peppers

Chicken Roman Style with Red and Yellow Peppers
Chicken Roman Style with Red and Yellow Peppers

I’m hosting an informal Easter dinner next Sunday. Some of the friends at the table will be with me in Rome and Naples in a few weeks so I’m serving dishes from those 2 cities.

We’ll start with a savory deep-dish pie, Pizza Rustica filled with ricotta, mozzarella and salumi and a deep-dish ricotta with candied citrus peel pie, Pastiera Napoletana, will be the sweet ending to our meal.

Chicken Roman-Style with red and yellow peppers in a sweet tomato sauce with prosciutto bits will be the piatto secondo, the main course.

Pollo alla Romana con i peperoni is a simple recipe that is ready in about 30 minutes. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast but you can use any chicken parts that please you. If you have more cook time, bone-in pieces will add even more flavor to the dish.

The cooking method used here, insaporire, to develop flavor, is a classic Italian technique. Cook the chicken and peppers separately to develop their full flavors. Then combine them together at the end so that the ingredients absorb flavor from each other and the dish develops distinctive, yet complex flavors.

The chicken is infused with the soft sweetness of the peppers, the salty prosciutto and chunky San Marzano tomato sauce. A perfect flavor balance.

Serve some polenta or rice on the side to absorb the sauce and you have lunch or dinner on one plate.

Watch me making the Neapolitan savory and sweet Easter Pies. Make them for your spring celebration.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken Roman Style with Peppers
 
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A one-pan chicken dish with peppers bathed in a sweet tomato sauce that is ready in about 30 minutes.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (or your favorite chicken parts. You can use a whole, chicken cut into 8 pieces if you want.)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide and 2-inch long strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide and 2-inch long strips
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) imported San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand or coarsely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the chicken breast into 4 or 5 pieces of equal size.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan large enough to hold all the chicken over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the smashed garlic and cook for about a minute.
  4. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes (15 minutes if your using chicken parts.)
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Remove the chicken and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Add the last 2 tablespoons of olive and oil to the pan.
  8. Add the prosciutto and 1 smashed garlic clove and cook for 1 minute.
  9. Add the pepper strips and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  10. Add the marjoram or oregano, sea salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Return the chicken and any juices that collected on the plate to the pan and mix everything together well.
  12. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  13. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine mostly evaporates.
  14. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Stir well and bring to a rapid simmer.
  15. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  16. Put the chicken and peppers on a platter and serve immediately.

 

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

Pastiera and Rustica Easter Pies
Pastiera and Rustica Easter Pies

Natale con i tuoi, la Pasqua con chi vuoi, Christmas at home and Easter with whomever you wish” is an old Italian saying.

Friends are coming to my place for Easter dinner next Sunday. I’m making 2 traditional Easter deep-dish pies from Naples that will bookend the meal.

The savory Pizza Rustica will be the antipasto course and the sweet Pastiera Napoletana will be dessert. You can make them too. Watch me making Pizza Rustica and Pastiera Napoletana.

Lucky for me I’m only making one of each pie this year. The picture above shows some of the pies I made a couple of years ago when the family gathered in Virginia. I had to ensure we had enough for Easter dinner and for everyone to take some home too.

I’ll post recipes for the rest of the Easter meal this week: Stracciatella, a Roman egg-drop soup and pollo alla Romano, chicken with red and yellow peppers in a light tomato sauce.

Buon appetito!

St. Joseph’s Day Spaghetti

St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti in anchovy sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs
St. Joseph’s Day Spaghetti in anchovy sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs

March 19 is the Feast of St. Joseph, Festa di San Giuseppe. It’s a big day in Italy and a big day among Italian-Americans.

St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day in Italia. Joseph was Mary’s husband and helped raise the young Jesus. St. Joseph is also Sicily’s patron saint. The story is that St. Joseph’s intervention saved Sicilians from starvation during a severe Middle Ages drought.

I make some of my favorite Italian food this time of the year in celebration of the Festa di San Giuseppe, the Feast of St. Joseph.

This year I’m making Sicilian St. Joseph’s Day dishes. First up is Spaghetti di San Giuseppe with toasted breadcrumbs that symbolize the sawdust on a carpeter’s floor.

The spaghetti is bathed in a zesty garlic, olive oil and anchovy sauce topped with nutty, golden toasted breadcrumbs. Spaghetti di San Giuseppe is a humble, simple dish with deep complex flavor. You can make the sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

My Italian roots are in Campania so I can’t forego making a Neapolitan pastry, Zeppole di San Giuseppe. We’re gathering to celebrate an Italian-American friend’s birthday tomorrow. I’m making Zeppole di San Giuseppe as my gift for the birthday boy and his guests.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day. Buon appetito!

2.0 from 1 reviews
St. Joseph's Day Pasta
 
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Spaghetti in an anchovy sauce with breadcrumbs is made on St. Joseph's Day in Italia. The breadcrumbs represent the sawdust on his carpenter's workshop floor.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 9 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • sea salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Large pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ⅔ cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Make the breadcrumbs in a skillet or in the oven.
  2. In a skillet:
  3. Warm 2 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add ¾ cup of fresh breadcrumbs and stir to coat with oil.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes.
  6. In the oven:
  7. Place ¾ cup of fresh bread crumbs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  8. Using your hands or a fork, gently combine the ingredients.
  9. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F. oven.
  10. Bake about 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until golden brown and crisp.
  11. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
  12. Put a large pot of well-salted water (about 5 quarts) over high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt when the water comes to a boil.
  13. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water.
  14. While the spaghetti is cooking to al dente, make the anchovy sauce.
  15. Finely chop 6 anchovy fillets; cut the remaining 3 into ½-inch pieces; set aside.
  16. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  17. Add the garlic, red pepper, and finely chopped anchovies.
  18. Cook, stirring until the anchovies dissolve.
  19. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer for about a minute.
  20. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  21. Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies.
  22. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
  23. Add the pasta and ¼ cup of the pasta water to the skillet with the anchovy sauce.
  24. Toss until the strands are well coated.
  25. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
  26. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs.
  27. Add the remaining crumbs to the skillet and toss the pasta again.
  28. Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls.
  29. Top each serving with a sprinkling of the reserved bread crumbs.

Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon

Chicken "poached" in extra virgin olive oil, olives, capers and lemon.
Chicken “poached” in extra virgin olive oil, olives, capers and lemon.

Here’s a really simple dish from Naples for those times when you really don’t feel like cooking.

The recipe works well with chicken or with fish. It’s pollo (or pesce) con olive, capperi e limone.

You see this combination celebrating meaty olives, zesty capers & puckery citrus in many recipes from Campania. The cooking method is what sets this one apart. It’s a riff on “poaching”.

Just put extra virgin olive oil, the olives, capers and lemon juice in a big saute pan. Let it sizzle. Layer the chicken (or fish) atop the olives and capers and cook for less than 10 minutes.

I added escarole sauteed in garlic and dried chili infused olive oil to the plate. You’ll be eating a very healthy dinner in way less than 30 minutes.

The velvety chicken is moist and tender. The pan sauce adds color and a zesty citrus, briny finish to each bite.

Buon appetito!

Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon
 
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Just cook the chicken (or fish) atop a bed of green olives, capers and lemon for less than 10 minutes. Serve the tender moist chicken topped with the zesty pan sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in chunky pieces (or fish fillets).
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (I use big fat green cerignola olives)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
Instructions
  1. Mix the olive oil, olives capers and lemon juice in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed saute pan.
  2. Over medium-low heat slowly bring the mixture to a gentle sizzle.
  3. Arrange the chicken pieces (or fish fillets) in a single layer. Cook in batches if necessary.
  4. Cook the chicken until fully cooked, about 4 minutes on the first side and about 3 minutes on the other side. I cover the pan for about half of the cooking time for each side. (Depending on the thickness of the fish fillets cook a minute or 2 on the first side and about a minute on the second side.)
  5. Sprinkle the chicken or fish with the chopped parsley.
  6. Taste the pan sauce and add some salt if necessary.
  7. Put the chicken or fish on a serving platter and pour the pan sauce with the olives and capers on top.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

2 North Beach Pizza Margheritas On Top 10 List

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Bravo!

2 of the pizzas on Chow’s Top 10 Pizza Margheritas in the Bay Area list are made right here in North Beach: Caffe Baonecci on Green near Grant and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana on Stockton at Union.

The Gambaccini family at Baonecci really make you feel at home and they make a really, really good pie. Tony only makes 73 margheritas a day so get there early to snag one.

Now that the weather is getting nicer you can grab an outside table at both of these pizzerie.

I’ve raved about Anthony Mangieri and his Una Pizza Napoletana in SOMA. His pies are among the best I’ve had anywhere and he’s really into making pizza. Anthony’s on the Chow’s Best Pizza Margherita list too.

Buon appetito!

Asparagus Frittata–Spring Has Sprung

Asparagus Frittata
Asparagus Frittata

Spring is taking hold so I thought I’d make something to celebrate, an egg pie with tender, thin asparagus.

Actually “La Squadra”, is gathering at my house for lunch. My Rome and Naples traveling companions and I need to finish planning our final week in Campania next month.

The frittata is part of my antipasti course, along with buffalo mozzarella from Campania and thinly sliced cappocolo cured locally. We  could be in either Roma or Napoli. This spring egg pie is popular in both cities. It’s popular with me too.

Don’t be intimidated. Making a frittata is not that hard. You can watch me making a frittata. If you don’t want to flip the frittata just finish it in the oven.

Frittata is a tasty antipasto or serve it with a salad and it’s lunch.

The golden frittata crust is nutty. The parmigiano perks up the tender, moist interior. The grassy, sweet asparagus scream spring has arrived.

Buon apettito!

Asparagus Frittata
 
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Frittata is an egg pie. This one celebrates the arrival of spring with tender, thin asparagus.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 5 extra large eggs
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Snap off the tough end of the asparagus spear. You should be left with the tender top. If the skin seems tough, peel it.
  2. Cut off the tips and cut the tip in half. Set aside.
  3. Cut the asparagus spear on the diagonal into 1-inch slices.
  4. Put a 10-inch saute pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
  6. Add the asparagus spear slices (not the tips) and saute for 2 minutes.
  7. Add a tablespoon of water, reduce heat to medium-low.
  8. Cover and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 2 minutes.
  9. Take the asparagus out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and swirl it around to coat the side of the pan.
  11. Return to medium heat and when the oil is hot add the asparagus tips. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  12. Return the asparagus stalk slices to the pan.
  13. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
  14. Stir the asparagus to coast with the oil.
  15. Spread the slices evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  16. Whisk the eggs in a bowl.
  17. Add the grated parmigiano reggiano and salt and pepper to taste.
  18. Mix everything together well.
  19. Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus in the pan.
  20. Cook over medium-low heat until the frittata is set. Run a spatula around and under the frittata to make sure it moves freely.
  21. Place a plate over the pan and flip the pan so the frittata ends up on the plate.
  22. Slide the frittata back in the pan.
  23. Finish cooking the frittata until it is solid.
  24. (If you don't want the flip the frittata, finish cooking it in a 375 degree oven until the top sets and browns.
  25. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate and serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana, a tomato, onion and pancetta sauce from Rome.
Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, pasta with a zesty tomato, onion and guanciale sauce.

Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti sauces that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. The recipe comes from the the small hill town of Amatrice in the Sabine Hills northeast of Rome.

You see spaghetti all’Amatriciana in all the trattorie in Rome. It’s a really popular pasta here in North Beach too. I get it whenever it’s on the menu at da Flora on Columbus. 

Here’s my version of this simple sauce. It doesn’t have many ingredients. Make sure you use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this one. The tomato, onion and guanciale sauce is ready in about 20 minutes.

I like the sauce a little on the chunky side. It sticks to the spaghetti better. The onions enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes. The crispy little guanciale cubes add texture to every bite. I add some chili flakes to perk everything up.

Nothing better than a fat forkful of spaghetti all’Amatriciana. It’s a mouthful of flavor that packs a little heat.

In Amatrice they hold an annual August festival, Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, that celebrates their world-famous pasta dish. Here’s a video of the town and the festival devoted exclusively to this dish. Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
 
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A perky tomato sauce with sweet onion and pancetta pairs perfectly with spaghetti.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces guanciale, diced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups canned San Marzano tomatoes, squashed by hand
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of well-salted water (5 quarts, 2 tablespoons sea salt) and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is boiling make the sauce.
  3. Put the olive oil in a large sauté pan (large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti) and heat over medium-high.
  4. When the oil is hot add the sliced onions (and chili flakes if using) and saute until the onions soften.
  5. Add the diced guanciale and saute until the guanciale picks up a bit of color.
  6. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan picking up any brown bits on the bottom. Stir them into the sauce.
  7. Cook until the wine decreases in volume by half.
  8. Add the tomatoes to the pan. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce rapidly simmer for about 15 minutes so it thickens.
  10. When the water is boiling cook the pasta.
  11. When the pasta is al dente drain the spaghetti.
  12. Put the spaghetti in the pan with the sauce. Mix well to evenly coat the spaghetti with the sauce.
  13. Finish cooking the pasta in the pan for a minute or so. The spaghetti will finish cooking and absorb some of the sauce.
  14. Put the spaghetti and sauce on a serving platter and top with the grated pecorino. Serve immediately.

 

Steak and Mushrooms with Baby Arugula

Tender sauteed steak "rags" and mushrooms atop arugula dressed with a pan sauce.
Straccetti di manzo, tender sauteed steak “rags” and mushrooms atop baby arugula.

You may see a theme in my upcoming recipes. I’m celebrating the food of Rome, the first stop on my upcoming trip to Italia.

A popular dish found in restaurants all over Rome, straccetti di manzo is a quick sauté of thinly sliced steak and mushrooms served over a bed of arugula.

The dish is called “stracetti” or “little rags” because the thinly sliced lean filet or steak is torn into small bite-sized pieces that resemble rags.

If you enjoy a salad topped by grilled steak, try this quick dish to satisfy your desires. It’s full of flavor and will be on your table in about 30 minutes. Just right for lunch or a light dinner all on one plate.

The boys at Little City suggested beef filet or a strip steak for this dish. I wanted buttery beef so I picked the filet and it works beautifully. The big heap of baby arugula at Union Produce caught my eye. It was a perfect base for the dish.

The tender filet rags and nutty mushrooms are bathed in the buttery pan sauce with sweet balsamic notes. The arugula adds a crunchy, peppery finish to each bite. Simple, healthy and delicious.

Buon appetito!

Sauteed Beef and Mushrooms with Arugula
 
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A quick and delicious dish of tender steak sliced the size of "little rags" sauteed with mushrooms and served over a bed of baby arugula.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound thinly sliced filet or steak
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups arugula
Instructions
  1. Slice the filet or steak with the grain into very thin slices (or ask you butcher to do it.)
  2. Cut or tear apart the slices with a fork into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Put the sliced beef into a bowl and add 4 tablespoons EVOO and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Mix well and set the beef aside for about 15 minutes.
  5. Cut the mushrooms into small wedges.
  6. Put 2 tablespoons of EVOO into a large saute pan and heat it over medium-high.
  7. When the oil is hot add the sliced beef to the pan. Reserve the EVOO in the bowl.
  8. Saute the sliced beef to your desired doneness. (I like to get some color on one side.)
  9. Transfer the beef to a dish and set aside.
  10. Add the reserved EVOO from the dish the beef was in to the pan. (You need about 2 tablespoons of oil so add more if necessary.)
  11. When the oil is hot add the mushrooms and cook to evaporate their moisture and to pick up a golden brown color, about 3 minutes.
  12. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the beef.
  13. Add the butter and flour to the hot pan. Whisk the butter and flour briskly so the flour doesn't clump.
  14. Add the white wine and stir frequently. Cook until the sauce thickens and reduces in volume, about 2 minutes.
  15. Add the beef and mushrooms to the sauce and mix well. Cook briefly to heat the beef and mushrooms and coat them well with the pan sauce.
  16. Off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar.
  17. Put a bed of arugula on a serving platter or individual plates, top with the the beef and mushrooms and their juices.
  18. Sprinkle a few leaves of arugula on top and serve immediately.

 

Stay Healthy–Eat Italian

Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome
Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome

You may have seen the news reports about the Mediterranean diet study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

People who eat lots of beans, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits, use extra virgin olive oil and drink wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart disease and other medical problems.

In Italia, you’ll find locally grown, seasonal produce markets in every city neighborhood and town. Campo di Fiori is one of the most famous. I shop it often when staying in the historical center of Rome.

Italians cherish fresh produce. They eat fish often. Nuts often end a meal. Extra virgin olive oil is an Italian kitchen staple. Meat is eaten in moderation.

Italians eat most of of their food at the midday meal. Supper is a simple, light meal.

I get a lot of exercise every day in Italia, including a delightful passagata or stroll after the evening meal. I’ll be enjoying the local bounty in Italia soon. I’ll share what I cook in Rome and Naples with you.

I try to maintain an Italian diet here in North Beach. Luckily I have ample access to local, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and locally caught seafood. Beans and grains are a significant part of my diet. And, I always use extra virgin olive oil except when frying.

Adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle and you’ll never need another diet scheme to lose weight or stay healthy. Eat Italian. It’s delicious and it’s good for you. Try this simple vegetable recipe and fish recipe to get a taste for yourself.

Here’s the New York Times article and a link to the Journal report.

Buon appetito!