Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Roma

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A Roman friend’s son Luca shot a video of Claudio, the chef/owner of Osteria Dar Bruttone making spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman pasta dish. I had to share it with you.

Claudio is passionate about Roma and about its food. His osteria in the San Giovanni neighborhood where he serves simple traditional Roman fare is popular with locals and tourists alike.

Claudio beams as he talks about the virtues of the most beautiful city on earth and Roman culinary tradition, a vital part of Roman life. Walk with Claudio as he shops in the markets near his osteria for the food that he will cook at his restaurant that day.

The spaghetti alla carbonara video is in Italian but even if you don’t speak the language watch it anyway. The shots of Rome, the markets and the kitchen techniques are priceless. Everyone I know who watched the video, fluent in Italian or not, had to make spaghetti alla carbonara right away. Here’s my translation of Claudio’s recipe for you to enjoy in your kitchen.

Spaghetti alla carbonara only has 4 ingredients and is ready to eat in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. Search out guanciale. It’s integral to the dish. (In a pinch you could use pancetta.) Use a dried durum wheat pasta extruded through bronze dies imported from Italy so the sauce will cling to its rough surface. Don’t be shy with the black pepper. Use pecorino for it’s more robust flavor, not parmigiano.

The spaghetti takes on a golden hue. Creamy, silky sauce coats every strand. Rich pecorino flavor plays off salty, crispy guanciale and black pepper tickles your throat with every bite.

I miss Roma. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:92]

Pasta Primavera: Bowtie Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Farfalle with Early Spring Vegetables

The farmers markets are overflowing with early spring vegetables so I just had to make Pasta Primavera, farfalle (bowtie) pasta with just-arrived asparagus, fava beans and sweet peas.

Pasta Primavera is a classic Italian-American dish concocted by Sirio Maccioni and made famous at his Le Cirque restaurant in New York City in the 70s.

I adapted the classic recipe to lighten up the cheesy sauce. Sirio used spaghetti but today I chose farfalle to ensure that every forkful has some pasta and vegetables for a full flavor explosion in every bite.

This is a glorious bowl of springtime. The sweet fresh vegetables are bathed in the light cream sauce and their fresh taste shines through. The farfalle absorb the sauce full of spring vegetable flavor. The ricotta salata grated on top ties the dish together and kicks it up a notch.

I had an ulterior motive for cooking up the dish today. I’m making Pasta Primavera at a demonstration and tasting for 50 San Jose fans later this week. I wanted to make sure I still had it right this season.

Here’s the Farfalle with Spring Vegetables recipe just in case you get inspired at the market. Use my spring veggie trio or use whatever spring vegetables turn you on. Just don’t use more than 3 vegetables or the flavors will get muddled.

You can make the primavera sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:89]

CSI in the Kitchen

Satisfy Your Longing for Mama's Cooking

Have you ever craved a dish your Mama made for you? Did you eat a dish in a restaurant that you just had to make yourself? Can’t get the recipe?

I read an interesting article last week about everyday kitchen detectives re-creating lost family dishes so I thought I’d share one of my quests to bring a dish back to life in my kitchen.

I had a fantastic pasta with a baby back rib sauce at Vicoletto’s street stall during last year’s Noodle Fest. I couldn’t coax the recipe out of the owner. The memory of this dish haunted me so I had to figure out how to make it myself.

My food memory and the dish’s profile were intact. The ribs were fall-off-the bone tender. The San Marzano tomato-basil sauce was sweet and rich. The Calabrian chile oil drizzled on top heated up my throat with every swallow.

First, I made a list of ingredients.

Second, I searched my cookbooks and the web to see if I could find any recipes. I learned a lot and refined my recipe.

Third, I planned out how I would make the sauce. The ribs had to be browned before adding the tomatoes, garlic and basil to the pot. The ribs have to braise for at least an hour to be fork tender. The dish has to be finished with the oil from a jar of Calabrian chiles.

I nailed this one on the first try. You can too with the recipe I created from this food memory.

Read more about kitchen detectives in a recent Wall Street Journal article on how others have resurrected a favorite lost dish.

By the way Moma’s is a great breakfast/lunch place on Washington Square. There’s always a line to get in.

 

Cook with Gianni Live in North Beach

Cooking Class at Cookhouse

My friend Chef Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen asked if I wanted to do a cooking class showcasing the rustic food of Italia. Tom teaches those with food allergies and sensitivities so I’m cooking without gluten, dairy, shellfish, soy or peanuts. We’re making a typical 4-course Italian meal at Cookhouse in North Beach.

The meal includes a selection my favorite classic dishes from several regions of Italia. I’m using the best local ingredients in season and simple preparations. You’ve seen me cooking some of these dishes in my kitchen and you’ve made others from my free recipes. Here’s your chance to cook them with me in a great kitchen.

We’ll cook in small groups and eat what we cook together at a big communal table. This is a hands-on class. Come ready to cook and ready to eat. Seats are filling up fast. Sign up for the March 24 class. Just email Chef Tom cheftom@hippkitchen.com.

Here’s what’s on the menu.

Antipasti (Before the Meal)

Brocoli rabe. Sauteed in EVOO with garlic and peperoncini. (Calabria)
Carciofi fritti. Baby aritchokes fried in EVOO and topped with a sprinkle of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon. (Lazio)
Caponata. Spicy eggplant salad with tomato, onions, celery and capers. (Sicily)
Fra’Mani salumi. (USA)

Primo Piatto (First Course)

Spaghetti aglio e olio. Corn dried pasta imported from Italia with an anchovy, garlic, EVOO, peperoncini and walnut sauce.

Secondo Piatto (Second Course)

Porchetta. Pork loin roast stuffed with an herb paste.
Cipollini agro dolce. Cipollini onions in a sweet/sour sauce.
Potatoes roasted with rosemary and truffle oil.

Dolce (Dessert)

Macedonia. Apple, pear salad marinated with Prosecco and Italian chestnut honey.

Espresso.

Caponata Siciliana (Eggplant and Vegetable Cooked Salad)

Caponata

I scored some beautiful small Italian eggplant at Union Street Produce so I just had to make caponata. I love this flavor-packed sweet-sour eggplant side dish (condimento) from Sicilia.

Usually I make caponata during the summer when the eggplant and tomatoes are at their prime. I was surprised to see the early crop of Italian eggplant in late January but it’s been a really mild winter in the Bay Area. The tomatoes were hot house vine-ripened on the stem.

Caponata is easy to make. Most of the work is cutting the eggplant and vegetables. Caponata is cooked in stages and married at the end with agrodolce, a sweet and sour syrup. Eggplant is the star so choose well at the market. The eggplant should be shiny black and firm to the touch. The small Italian eggplant are my favorite for caponata but if you can’t find them any eggplant will do.

If you’ve never had caponata try some from a shop like North Beach’s new salumeria (Italian deli) Geppetto to get a taste of how this dish is supposed to be and then make your own. Caponata will keep in the refrigerator for about a week so I usually have some on hand to add to an antipasti platter, as a side dish for grilled or roasted meat or fish, as pasta sauce or as a topping for bruschetta or crostini.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:87]

New Year’s Eve Menu

Cotechino
Cotechino with Lentils (Image from Cellartours.com)

Still recovering from a wonderful Christmas? Rest up and get ready for New Year’s Eve.

We eat late on New Year’s Eve so that at the end of the meal we can flow right into the midnight ball drop. I minimize my time in the kitchen so here’s a simple menu to maximize your time with friends and family.

Cioppino is a traditional New Year’s Eve dish among North Beach Italian-Americans. I’m combining it with a traditional Italian dish for good fortune in the new year, lentils with Cotechino or roasted Italian sausages.

A glass of Prosecco, the light Italian bubbly, gets things moving in the right direction as your guests arrive.

Start with some antipasti. Keep it simple, maybe some prosciutto di parma with fresh mozzarella drizzled with a great finishing EVOO, or soppressata salami and young pecorino. Scatter some olives around the plate and you’re done. My giardiniera or sweet vinegar peppers make an nice addition to this antipasti platter and my celery mostarda (relish) is always a hit.

Serve the lentils and sausges as your primo piatto, your first course. You can make this dish ahead and just heat it before serving. Make sure you have some good crusty bread on the table to soak up the broth. A fruity, dry red goes well with this dish, a Dolcetto d’Alba or Nero d’Avalo pairs nicely.

For the main course, cioppino is really easy to make so you won’t be away from the party for long. It’s a great fish stew from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf all cooked in a single pot, less than 30 minutes start to finish. The sour dough bread is a must have with this delicious dish from the sea. I like a Chianti Classico with the fish in a zesty tomato sauce.

For dessert, affogato, a scoop of vanilla gelato showered with a shot of espresso. This is the ultimate simple dessert and the espresso will help you make it to the ball drop.

It never hurts to have a panettone around. The sweet dome bread is studded with candied citrus and raisins. If you have any left over it makes great french toast the next morning.

I’m feeling generous as 2011 draws to a close, so here’s another menu suggestion for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Crab is in season and they are heavy and meaty this year. Get one live or steamed from your fishmonger and cook the picked crab in a spicy tomato sauce over linguine. A nice start to the meal.

How about a roast?

My porchetta (roasted pork loin stuffed with herbs) with sauteed escarole and truffle roasted potatoes is a celebratory meal. If you want something really quick try my simple roast pork tenderloin or my roast beef studded with garlic and parsley.

Get my free Italian vegetable eBook and pick the side dishes you want to enjoy.

Felice Anno Nuovo! Happy New Year!

 

My Basil Pesto Gnocchi Is Too Green!

Don't be fooled by "Italian" chain restaurants!
Don't be fooled by "Italian" chain restaurants!
Don't be fooled by "Italian" chain restaurants!

Olive Garden, Romano’s Marcaroni Grill, Buca di Beppo — I don’t eat in these joints and if you love authentic Italian food you shouldn’t either. The food they serve has been engineered to appeal to the bland American palate that prizes grease, calories and volume. Most of what they serve is a disgrace and has no connection to the healthy simple dishes that Italians and Italian-Americans enjoy.

The Wall Street Journal had a piece in today’s paper about how these chains struggle to keep and grow their middle America clientele with low-brow tastes.

Olive Garden sends its chefs to Italy to taste the real deal. Unfortunately, when they return to their test kitchens in Orlando the chefs reverse-engineer the dish and bastardize it so that it appeals to their customers.

They stopped making basil pesto for pasta because it was too green for their clientele. A great pasta dish they enjoyed in northern Italy was too “rustic” so they added a cheesy sauce and meat to make it more “normal” and to convince their customers that it was a good deal. They don’t use capers often because the salty and pickled flavor is too out there for their diners. Gnocchi was a bit too adventurous so they only serve it in soup. My delicate gnocchi would never hold up in this water bath.

Please, please, please! Do not equate what you get at these chain restaurants with authentic regional cuisine in Italia or with the food that I celebrate on Gianni’s North Beach. Visit Italia, and until you do, cook up some of my dishes for yourself. You’ll feel better after you eat and, even at chain prices, you’ll save money too.

Buon appetito!

North Beach Discovery: Fresh Truffles from Italia

Fresh White & Black Truffles, Dried Porcini Mushrooms and Just-Pressed EVOO

I love this time of the year in Italia. You get to enjoy black truffles shaved over pici, a rustic home-made spaghetti, or white truffles shaved atop fresh fettucine, or either, shaved atop golden veal scallopine. You may not believe it but black or white truffles shaved on top of eggs fried in olive oil is heavenly, too. I don’t know what excites me more, the truffle aroma that fills my head as the dish arrives or the first bite.

We’re in luck this year. Santo of North Beach’s Cavalli Cafe is selling white and black truffles from Piemonte and Umbria along with fragrant and meaty porcini just dried in the Tuscan sun, and an extra virgin olive oil from a small mill pressed 2 weeks ago. Quite a score for Santo. Bravo!

As of today these truffles are five days out of the ground. Santo’s prices are very reasonable and the quality is excellent. Treat yourself. It’s the holidays – eat some fresh truffles while you can.

The truffles will last about a week wrapped in paper towel and stored in a paper bag in the fridge. If you don’t use them all you can freeze what’s left in butter. Just scoop out what you need. That should last you until next year’s harvest.

But don’t delay because the just-pressed extra virgin olive oil sold out in a day. I’ll save my tasting notes until the next shipment arrives. It ain’t cheap, but you’ll want to get some of this fantastic, fresh finishing oil before the next shipment sells out, too. I’ll let you know when it arrives.

Here is a white truffle pasta recipe and a black truffle pasta recipe to get you started. I suggest you either make fresh pasta or use a very good Italian dried durum wheat pasta. If you use my fresh pasta recipe just pass the pasta sheets through the fettucine or tagliatelle cutters on the pasta machine, or tightly roll up the pasta sheets and cut them in 1/2 inch ribbons. Buon appetito!

Pappardelle with White Truffle Sauce

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:81]

Tagliatelle with Black Truffle Sauce

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:83]

Ditali Pasta with Peas & Onions

Ditali with Peas & Onions

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. The sauce is done in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

I made it for a recent family reunion meal and there was a bit of tussle at the table as everyone scrambled to get a second helping.

The pressure was on when I made this one. Two of my sisters were with me and I had to satisfy their taste memories of my Mom’s version of this dish. Luckily it was a hit all around.

My vegan niece was able to eat this dish. I just set the sauteed peas and onions aside and finished the sauce with pasta water from her vegan pasta.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:73]