These braciole are beef rolls filled with prosciutto, provolo and a bread stuffing with chopped egg, parsley, garlic and pecorino.
The braciole braise in San Marzano tomatoes to create a sauce with deep rich flavors and a brick red color.
In Italy the sauce is typically used to dress pasta as a first course followed by the braciole accompanied by a vegetable.
The sauce fills the house with the aroma of sweet tomatoes, garlic and oregano. You know long before the meal that you’re in for a treat.
The braciola is fork tender. The prosciutto and provolo add salty zest. Every bite is a surprise, a sweet raisin here, a crunchy pine nut there, all hidden in the rich bread and chopped egg filling.
I quickly sauteed baby spinach in extra virgin olive oil with a touch of butter and a smashed garlic clove, the spinach a mellow interlude to the complexly flavored braciole and oregano-scented tomato sauce.
Braciole, slow braised beef rolls stuffed with prosciutto, provolo and a savory bread stuffing in an oregano-scented San Marzano tomato sauce.
Recipe type: Entree
For the Braciole
6 thin beef slices, about 6 by 8 inches and about ½ inch thick. Pound the beef if necessary to get the right shape and thickness. (I use thinly sliced sirloin when I want to cut the braising time. Minute or flank steaks or bottom round slices work well but will need at least 2 hours to braise.)
2 cups stale bread, crust removed and cubed
⅓ cup raisins
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
2 boiled eggs, chopped
⅓ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ pound thinly sliced prosciuto
¼ pound provolo or provolone, cut into 1 inch strips
For the Sauce
28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into a small dice
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
Put the stale bread in a bowl and cover with water.
When the bread is soft squeeze out the water and put the bread in a large bowl.
Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Over high heat bring the water to a boil. When the water boils shut off the heat, cover the pot and let the eggs sit in the water for 12 minutes so they're hard boiled.
When the eggs are cool enough to handle remove the shell and roughly chop the eggs.
Add the onion, garlic, chopped egg, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, grated pecorino, 1 tablespoon olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients well.
Lay the beef out on a working surface.
Cover each slice with a thin slice of prosciutto. Tap the prosciutto all over with the back of a chef's knife so it adheres to the beef.
Spread the stuffing evenly over all of the beef slices. (Leave an inch border around the edges so the stuffing doesn't spill out.)
Place a strip of provolo near the end of the beef slice.
Tightly roll up each beef slice starting at the end with the provolo.
Attach a toothpick through the braciole to hold it together while cooking. Or tie the braciole tightly with string at each end.
Sprinkle the braciole with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put a pot over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.
When the oil is hot add the braciole and brown them all over. (Lower the heat if necessary so the braciole don't burn.)
Set the braciole aside on a plate.
Put the onions, garlic and chili flakes in the pot and sauté until the onions are translucent. (Be sure to scape up the fond, the dark bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.)
Add the tomato paste and toast in the oil until its color darkens.
Add the oregano and bay leaf and mix all the ingredients well.
Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a low simmer.
Put the braciole and any juices that collected on the resting plate back in the pot.
Braise the braciole covered by the sauce until the braciole are fork tender, at least an hour or as long as 2½ hours depending the cut of beef you used.
When tender, slice the braciole in 2 inch slices.
Put some sauce on a serving platter.
Lay out the braciole slices and top with additional sauce.
Neapolitans love clams. The outdoor fish stalls have clams of all sizes just out of the bay on display in buckets of water. For me, the smaller the better.
I love vongole verace, those clams the size of your thumb, but you have to cook a lot so everyone gets plenty of the tiny, tender clams. Sometimes I want a fatter clam and these larger ones were perfect, meaty but tender. Just right.
This is a dish that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Just put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the spaghetti goes into the boiling water, make the clam sauce.
Heat olive oil, with garlic, parsley and chili flakes in another pot. When the oil is hot and the garlic is translucent, add the clams and a splash of white wine, cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.
When the spaghetti is cooked very al dente add it to the clam sauce and mix well. The spaghetti will finish cooking as it absorbs the clam broth. Sprinkle the spaghetti with chopped Italian parsley, drizzle on some extra virgin oil and serve. You’ll be eating in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.
The spaghetti sticks to the tooth. The briny tender clams are redolent with garlic. The chili flakes add a sparkle to every bite and when I’m done my tongue tingles for a while. The pristine taste of the sea in bowl. Delicious.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples
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.
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.
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!
Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).
Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.
Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.
The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.
By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.
And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.
Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Recipe type: Main
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large branch of fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 pound ziti
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
3 cups marinara sauce
5 basil leaves
1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
Set the sauce aside.
Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
April Bloomfield just bought North Beach’s iconic Tosca Cafe on Columbus and will soon be serving her food there. She has a cult following at her restaurant The Spotted Pig in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I wondered what was in store for us when she arrives here in North Beach.
She describes her dishes as “British, but with Italian undertones.” I haven’t been to The Pig and I wanted to find out more about April’s British take on Italian food.
I came across one of April’s pasta recipes and decided to give it a go. I’m adding it to my list of dishes where the sauce can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta. You can get these pasta dishes on your table in less than 30 minutes.
April first had the dish in Puglia, the southern most region on Italia’s Adriatic coast where it was served by a skilled home cook she was visiting. Her hostess made it with homemade orecchiette, small ear-shaped pasta. Quality dried orecchiette from Italia works well too.
Don’t be scared off by the anchovy in the sauce. Anchovy melts in hot oil and adds dimension to any dish. It’s an umami, like miso, a preserved ingredient that is known as a “5th taste”. The anchovy in this dish adds flavor and depth to the sauce.
The little pasta hats capture the sauce. The anchovy and garlic sauce is mellowed by the sweet cauliflower with a rosemary accent.
I love this pasta and can’t wait for April Bloomfield to wow us with more of her food at the revived Tosca Cafe. Try my riff on her recipe to get a preview of what’s coming to North Beach.
My friend Susan called from Jersey and the subject of her renowned cavatelli with broccoli came up during our conversation. Actually, we talked about “gavadeal” and broccoli, as cavatelli is known in the Jersey southern Italian-American argot.
The broccoli in my fridge had to be used soon. After sharing recipes with Susan, I had to make a broccoli and garlic sauce for the gemelli pasta sitting on the shelf.
Gemelli means twins and it got its name from the two strands curled around each other to form the pasta. Use gemelli, cavatelli, or your favorite short-cut pasta.
Pasta in a broccoli and garlic sauce packed with flavor is ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. The garlic and olive oil enliven the mellow broccoli. The pasta absorbs the sauce and echoes all the flavors. The chili pepper flakes give you a little hot sparkle with each swallow.
I like to dissolve an anchovy fillet or two in the hot oil to deepen the sauce’s savory flavor. It’s your choice to add anchovy or not. If you don’t like hot, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes too. Make pasta with broccoli and garlic your way.
Add this basic pasta sauce technique to your repertoire and you will open the door to a dozen variations. To spark your imagination, here’s a look at cavatelli with 2 sauces, broccoli rabe and a vodka cream sauce, that we made when “Cavati Carol” was in town with her special pasta machine. Carol hails from Rhode Island where cavatelli are known as cavati. Here’s another twist on this basic pasta sauce using arugula and cavatelli.
If you’re hungry and in a hurry, use dried pasta imported from Italia and this dish can be on your table in way less than an hour.
1-2 tablespoons sea salt for the pasta water plus salt to taste for the sauce
¼ cup grated pecorino
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
Cut the florets in bite-size pieces.
When the water is boiling add the florets and cook them to your desired doneness. I like mine just as they are knife tender. Take them out earlier if you like a crunch.
While the florets are cooking, in a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta add the EVOO, anchovy if using, the garlic and red pepper flakes. Over medium-high heat saute the garlic until it is translucent and the anchovy has dissolved into the sauce, about 2 minutes.
With a spider take the florets out of the boiling water and add them to the saute pan and mix to coat the florets well with the oil.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
With a spider drain the pasta and add it to the sauté pan. You want some of the pasta water for the sauce so don't drain the pasta well as you add it to the sauce. (If you drain the pasta instead of using a spider, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
Mix the pasta and broccoli together well to coat everything with the sauce. (If the sauce isn't wet enough add some of the pasta water. The pasta will absorb the sauce as it finishes cooking in the saute pan so it won't be watery when you serve the pasta.)
Off the heat mix in the grated cheese.
Place the pasta on a serving platter. Drizzle with a good finishing EVOO and a sprinkle of grated pecorino.
Actually it’s called ragu alla Bolognese. It’s a long-cooked meat sauce from Bologna, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, the culinary heart of Italy.
The ragu is traditionally served with tagliatelle in Bologna, a flat pasta a bit narrower than fettuccine. The pasta’s shape is perfect to maximize the sauce captured on its surface.
Spinach tagliatelle is the favorite in Bologna. I grabbed fresh spinach pasta at Molinari’s Deli on Columbus so I could focus on the ragu.
The ragu has to simmer at least 3 1/2 hours, even longer. I like to make it Sunday morning to eat for lunch or dinner. The aroma will fill your house all day.
You’re building layers of flavor here. Saute minced onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in EVOO and butter. Add the meat and mix them together. Cover it all with wine. Cook off the wine and add milk and nutmeg. Cook those off too, then add the tomatoes and simmer, simmer, simmer. You end up with a thick brick-red ragu with tons of flavor.
When the sauce is done, boil some well-salted water and cook the fresh tagiatelle. That will take about 3 minutes. Put half the sauce in a large bowl. Drain the pasta when al dente and put it in the bowl and mix well with the ragu. Place a serving of pasta on a plate and top with a big spoonful of the ragu. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano and eat!
The fresh tagliatelle is silky and coated with the ragu. The long simmer intensifies the complexity of the sauce and melds all the flavors together. The dusting of parmigiano reggiano completes this homage to Bologna.
This ragu is for a pound of tagliatelle, fettuccine or your favorite pasta.
When I don’t have time to make my own, one of my favorites in North Beach is Graziano’s ragu alla Bolognese at his Caffe Puccini on Columbus.
I was hosting a 4-course birthday dinner for a friend. I asked her what she wanted. “Nothing special. You come up with something. It’s always good,” she told me. But the next morning she sent me an email. “Can you make sweet potato gnocchi? I’ve been craving them.”
How could I say no, but the pressure was on. Everyone at my dinner loves the puffy, light sweet potato gnocchi at da Flora, one of our favorite North Beach restaurants. Would mine pass muster with this exacting crowd?
I use both russet and sweet potatoes here. Sweet potatoes can be wet so I roasted the potatoes instead of boiling them in their jackets to keep them as dry as possible.
The sweet potato gnocchi were light little pillows that just about melted on my tongue. The sage butter sauce is classic in its simplicity and adds richness to the gnocchi’s sweetness. The grated parmigiano really balances the flavors and adds to the complexity of this dish.
This recipe made over 100 gnocchi. Lucky for me I had more than enough for dinner so some could be frozen to enjoy another day. Just spread them out on a cookie tray and put them in the freezer. When frozen store them in a freezer bag. Drop the frozen gnocchi right into the boiling water. They’ll take a bit longer to cook through. Frozen gnocchi are good but fresh gnocchi are better.
Flavor memories of my Mom’s hunter-style braised chicken overwhelmed me. I headed down the hill to get what I needed to make this easy, rustic dish.
I’m a breast man but go ahead and include all of your favorite chicken parts. The breasts take less time to cook so just simmer dark meat pieces a bit longer. Use bone-in and skin-on chicken for more flavor.
My recipe includes my father’s “secret” ingredient. He always added a sweet vinegar pepper to his chicken cacciatore. If you’re really energetic make my easy vinegar pickled peppers. (If you don’t have vinegar peppers use a dozen vinegar-brined capers or just a few drops of red wine vinegar. The acidity balances the sweetness of the peppers.)
I served the chicken cacciatore up with creamy polenta so I didn’t lose any of the sauce on the plate. Boiled rice works well too. You can also use the sauce for pasta.
The chicken is moist and tender, bathed in the chunky, sweet tomato-pepper sauce. I like to get a piece of bell pepper with each bite of chicken. Sometimes when I’m lucky, I get a piece of the piquant vinegar pepper too. Heaven!
I was navigating through the crowd waiting for the bus outside of Cavalli Cafe on Stockton and didn’t notice the hand-written sign in the window. Owner Santo Esposito saw me passing by and ran out to tell me that black truffles (tartufi neri) had just arrived from Umbria. My heart raced as we hurried inside.
Santo opened the box with the black beauties inside. The truffle aroma wafted across the counter. I was overwhelmed and had to have one. I knew exactly what I would do with the tartuffo I was holding in my hand, my take on a classic Umbrian pasta.
I had chestnut flour in my cupboard so I made fresh pasta and served it with a simple black truffle sauce. Set a plate of pasta before each guest and shave truffle on top. The aroma of the Umbrian forest fills your head as you go in for your first forkful. The tender pasta has a delicate, sweet chestnut flavor that blends nicely with the woodsy truffles. (You can find chestnut flour at Italian delis and at many supermarkets or just substitute spaghetti or your favorite imported Italian dried pasta.)
Friends in Italia supply Santo with the best products all year: Tuscan EVOO from last fall’s first press; dried porcini mushrooms; chestnut flour; white and black truffles depending on the season. These black truffles were harvested just a few days ago. Don’t delay, get fresh black truffles at Cavalli Cafe now @ $2/gram.
A classic from Catania on the eastern shore of Sicily, this wildly popular pasta took on its name in honor of favorite-son Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma 180 years ago. You’ll find it on menus all over Sicilia now.
A couple of you asked about this dish so I thought I’d make it. It’s almost 2 years since my last exquisite week in Sicilia and I’m in the mood for a taste memory of that beautiful island.
The shiny black-purple eggplant in the market are superb. Get the firm small to medium ones. They don’t have many seeds. Even though it’s July we won’t have good local Bay Area tomatoes for about 6 weeks, so I used imported San Marzano tomatoes from Campania.
My Rigatoni alla Norma is inspired by my Catania cousins-in-law. The creamy tomato-eggplant sauce coats each fat pasta tube. The grated salty ricotta salata (dried ricotta cheese) sprinkled on top balances the sweetness of the sauce. Celebrate summer with this easy 2-step recipe. It brought me back to the heat and sun of Sicily’s Ionian coast eating Pasta alla Norma al fresco with a glass of Nero d’Avola wine.
If you’re enjoying a summer bounty of local tomatoes at the height of flavor here’s my fresh San Marzano tomato sauce video. San Marzano tomatoes are best but you can use local Roma or other tomato varieties to make a great sauce in place of one made with imported canned San Marzano tomatoes.
I had a hankering for stuffed peppers for a while so I made some today. Peppers are flooding the farmers market and a couple of big, ripe red bell peppers called out to me this morning.
The roasted stuffed peppers are tender and sweet. The arborio rice and ground beef stuffing is pumped up with shallot, oregano, parsley and parmigiano and baked with a simple San Marzano tomato-basil sauce. The top is golden with a nutty, crunchy crust. The moist savory rice stuffing absorbs the sweet San Marzano and basil sauce to create a taste medley in each bite. Early summer on a plate. Just delicious.
Stuffed peppers don’t take that long to make. Most of the time is roasting the stuffed peppers and then finishing them in the oven with the tomato sauce.
You can serve the stuffed peppers as an antipasto course, as a side with meat or for lunch, maybe with some pasta dressed with the tomato sauce from the baking pan on the side.
Use bell peppers or choose your favorite pepper. Italian frying peppers or banana peppers work well too. Don’t add the meat and enjoy just as flavorful vegetarian stuffed peppers.