Frittata is a versatile dish and you can make it in less than 20 minutes start to finish. Use whatever ingredients you want to make it your own. Here I use some of my favorites. Browned potatoes and onions are the base. Fresh mozzarella, roasted sausage, grated pecorino, and chopped parsley enhance the egg mixture.
Make yours vegetarian. Saute a couple of your favorite veggies to bring out their flavor. Roasted asparagus or sauteed zucchini work well too. Let the sauteed vegetables cool before adding them to egg mixture. Prosciutto or ham are good substitutes for the roasted sausage. Fontina or another soft cheese can replace the mozzarella. Or just use grated pecorino, parmigiano or grana padano.
Serve frittata for brunch or dinner. A side fruit or green salad completes the plate. Frittata is a nice addition to an antipasti platter too. However you serve your frittata make sure you have enough left over so you can enjoy frittata panini (sandwiches) later on.
I use a well-seasoned 11-inch cast iron pan for my 10 egg frittata. Non-stick saute pans work well too. For my smaller 9-inch cast iron pan I use 6 or 8 eggs. If you are anxious about flipping the frittata to cook the second side use an oven-proof pan and put it in the oven to finish cooking.
The golden crust is nutty and the frittata is cooked through but still a moist on the inside. Enjoy a mouthful of flavor in every bite.
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.
Here’s a 4-course Easter dinner suggestion. I even threw in Italian wine pairings.
Follow my easy video demonstrations and text recipes (a fan suggests I call these “videocipes” or “recideos”) and make dinner for yourself. Bake the 2 traditional Easter Pies the day before and let them sit overnight. They’ll taste better after all the flavors meld. Make the soup the day before. It tastes best the next day too.
That’s 3 courses ready to go. You can make the main course–roasted herb-infused pork with 2 delicious sides–on Easter in just a couple of hours including cooking time.
Don’t forget to pick up your Columba Pasquale the traditional Easter bread in the shape of a dove. They’re at every North Beach caffe, deli and bakery. Hopefully you’ll find one near you. Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!
A slice of Pizza Rustica the savory cheese, salumi and ricotta deep-dish pie. A dry Prosecco pairs well.
I’m jazzed. San Francisco’s own world-famous Italian cook, teacher and author Joyce Goldstein is preparing a Seder at Perbacco on April 10. The roots of this meal are in Square One, Goldstein’s sorely missed Jackson Square restaurant. She first served a Seder meal there in 1989 celebrating the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen.
I had forgotten about this event but an office-mate reminded me this morning. I called Perbacco right away to book an early table for 10 of us.
“Sorry” Perbacco’s Steven said. “Come at 8:45”. “Can’t do it,” I told him. How about three tables for four at 6:00.” “Yes I can do that but they won’t be together.” “That’s OK at least we’re in the door.” I wasn’t missing this meal.
A half-hour later my phone rang. It was Steven. “Just had a cancellation. I can give you a table for 10 at 5:30. It’s in the private room upstairs overlooking the kitchen.” “I’ll take it! Can you see down into the kitchen?” “Yes. I look forward to meeting you at the Seder.”
Score! Turns out the room sits 18 and half of the seats at the table are already claimed. So far we’re half Jewish and half Gentile.
So what am I so excited about? I’m a big fan of cucina Ebraica, the food of the Italian Jewish kitchen. Within a day or 2 each time I arrive in Roma I lunch at Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia overlooking incredible Roman ruins in the Jewish Ghetto. My typical meal is carciofi alla Giudia, crispy fried artichokes in the Jewish style that look like a giant chrysanthemum on the plate, then spaghetti alla carbonara and last fried baccala (reconstituted dried-cod fillet) all washed down with chilled local Frascati. Here’s my video making the stuffed artichokes that I first had in the Ghetto.
I won’t be in Roma again until later this year so here’s my chance to enjoy some of the fantastic Italian food from the Ghetto right here in San Francisco.
I loved Square One and one of my favorite cookbooks is Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica–Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen. With Joyce and Perbacco’s maestro Staffan Terje in the kitchen this will be quite a night. Here’s the Seder menu. Give Stephen a call. He’s good. Maybe he can still find you a table on Perbacco’s busiest night of the year. Or, join our private communal table. Let me know if you’re interested and if any seats are available I’ll shoot you an email.
Not mine and maybe not yours but if you’re on Staten Island you can savor the cooking of a real nonna (grandmother) born in Italia at local restaurant Enoteca Maria.
No chefs here. Every night one of a stable of 9 grandmothers is in the kitchen making her favorite dishes from her native region. Joe Scaravella opened Enoteca Maria 5 years ago after he lost his mother and sister. He yearned to recreate the Italian family table now gone from his life. The nonnas hail from Naples and other towns in Campania, Agrigento and Palermo in Sicily and the province of Chieti in Abruzzo.
Joe placed an ad recruiting local women who cook authentic Italian food. He interviews each nonna and within 5 minutes he knows in his heart who to invite into the kitchen. Joe picks only those grandmothers he senses can really cook. When asked what food they grew up on he knows that they are not right for him if they respond in English with chicken parmigiana or eggplant.
Wait a minute Joe, what’s wrong with eggplant? I ate a lot of eggplant made by my Campania-born mother and eggplant parmigiana is my favorite dish.
Giovana Gambino is one Enoteca Maria’s nonnas. She was raised in Palermo and was cooking the day NPR’s David Greene visited Enoteca Maria. She boasts that she doesn’t cook arancini the classic Sicilian rice ball in the traditional way. Giovana’s modified simple arancini recipe is shaped by years of living in America but still remains true to its roots in Palermo. If you want to kick arancini up a notch or two try these arancini from da Flora, the Venetian osteria in North Beach.
I’ll take the free ferry from Manhattan over to Staten Island the next time I’m in New York. I’ll let you know what nonna’s cooking that night at Enoteca Maria. Can’t wait!
Also known as Italian wedding soup, chicken and escarole soup is an Italian-American classic. The addition of the little savory veal meatballs make this soup special. It’s a staple at Italian wedding receptions and hence the moniker Italian Wedding Soup.
But you don’t have to wait for a wedding to enjoy this bowl of goodness. Monday was soup night when I was growing up and my mother made this soup often. My family continues the tradition to this day. I like to dunk crusty Italian bread in the broth. My father liked to break chunks of day-old bread into his bowl to soak up the broth.
The soup I make here is a rustic version. You can make it more refined by cutting the vegetables into a smaller dice and make the meatballs even smaller. I always saute the vegetables in EVOO before adding the water. This method intensifies the flavor they add to the soup.
I’m not a dark meat fan but if you are use chicken thighs or legs in addition to or in place of the breasts. Be sure to skim off all the fat from the chicken and meatballs when the soup is done cooking.
Finish each bowl of soup with a good finishing extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated pecorino, parmigiano or grana padano before serving.
So make Italian Wedding Soup your way. It’s quick and easy. You can make it in less than an hour.
I found a Yelp list of North Beach Italian restaurants listed 1 to 50. Actually there aren’t 50 places. Some are listed more than once and a couple have closed. Before you get to the list and all of the comments I can’t help adding my updates and observations about North Beach restaurants with links to a few recent posts. I even threw in recipes from 2 of my favorite restaurants on the list.
La Felce is closed. It’s now Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Pulcinella closed but Tony will soon launch Capos featuring Chicago deep-dish pizza in that space. A total renovation down to the studs is moving at a rapid pace. Large black and white photos of infamous Chicagoans like Al Capone and an Art Deco bar with a vintage cash register from Chicago are part of new interior mix. Then there’s that mural found behind a wall during the renovation. The oil on canvas mural that captures Vallejo Street in all its 50s glory will be re-installed. I can’t wait to see the new space and eat a deep-dish pizza.
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.
Italian-Americans celebrate their patron saint with a neighborhood street festival each year. Festa San Gennaro in NYC’s Little Italy may be the biggest. My Rhode Island friends call these fairs Our Lady of Sausage and Peppers because the streets are lined with stalls grilling sausage and peppers for sandwiches on an Italian roll. I always have to eat at least one.
Here’s an easy one-pan recipe for this Italian-American classic. It’s a really flavorful dish you can make in less than an hour for a quick dinner or for sandwiches. The trick to this recipe is cooking the ingredients in stages and then putting them all together in the pan at the end.
I used hot Calabrian and mild or “sweet” Sicilian sausages from North Beach’s Little City Meats (Stockton and Vallejo) with Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers preserved in vinegar. G.L. Mezzetta Inc. started in the 30s as a small North Beach mom-and-pop store. Now located in the North Bay and run by the fourth-generation of the Mezzetta family their products are available nationwide. If I don’t have vinegar peppers I made myself I always use Mezzetta.
Serve the sausage and peppers on a plate for lunch or dinner with some crusty bread or make sandwiches on an Italian roll. Either way it’s a mouthful of flavor with each bite.
My Mom’s meatloaf or polpettone (big meatball in Italian) is still a favorite. This is an “all in one dish” meal with about 15 minutes of prep time and 60 minutes in the oven. The meatloaf recipe is a variation of my meatball recipe so you can watch the Sunday Gravy episode (about 8.5 minutes into the video) to get a sense of how I put the meatloaf mixture together. Just form the meatloaf and brush the top of the meatloaf with some EVOO to help form a nice crust on the top.
Later on we modified my Mom’s meatloaf. We topped it with tomato sauce and laid bacon on top. Bacon makes everything better, right? I stayed pure with this one but I tell you how to make the meatloaf with sauce and bacon in the recipe.
My Mom surrounded her meatloaf with potato, onion, celery and carrot. I love that vegetable combination but I changed it up here. I’ve roasted flat cippolini onions, potatoes and butternut squash with this polpettone. You can add any vegetables you like to the roasting pan. Have it your way. Just make sure you have some meatloaf and vegetables left over. It’s great heated up the next day and it makes a great sandwich too. Don’t tell anybody but sometimes I like a little ketchup with this dish.
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.
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.
Need a boost as the holidays near? I got one watching the first episode of PBS’ Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables and Traditions.
Lidia Bastianich explores holiday traditions that bring family and friends together at the table. The show is a celebration of diversity and of the common human experience. If you missed it on TV catch it on the web. You’ll feel good.
The Mexican Christmas dinner with four generations of the Cortez family who own Mi Terra restaurant in San Antonio and Passover Seder with a New York City family and food maven Ruth Reichl are great. But my two favorites are the Feast of the Seven Fishes Lidia cooked in her kitchen with Stanley Tucci and the Chinese New Year meals here in San Francisco with Chinatown legend Shirley Fong-Torres.
I love Tucci’s insight into the role of food in Italian families. Shirley tells a fascinating story of how the Fong family from China became the Torres family in the Philipines and prospered in San Francisco.
Go shopping with Lidia and Mo Rocca on Arthur Avenue, “New York City’s Real Little Italy”. Explore the streets of San Franciso’s Chinatown and glimpse Shirley’s deep understanding of this great neighborhood.
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!
I had dough left over from the Sicilian Semolina bread I made last week and escarole left over from when I made soup the other day. Both were sitting idle in my fridge for days until I was inspired — combine the two leftovers and make calzone, those delicious bread turnovers with a savory filling.
This is a version of Wimpy Skippy from Caserta Pizzeria on Providence’s Federal Hill Italian-American neighborhood. They make it with spinach sauteed with garlic, pepperoni and mozzarella. I kicked it up a notch or two.
If you don’t have any dough in your refrigerator and you’re making the calzone from scratch use either my pizza dough recipe that takes about 90 minutes to make or the semolina bread dough recipe that takes about 2 and a half hours to make. (The prep time includes the time it takes the dough to rise. Mixing everything together takes about 15 minutes for both.) You can make the dough in advance and keep it in the fridge. Just let it sit out to come to room temperature before making the calzone.
Either recipe works well. The semolina dough turns a pale yellow from the durum wheat flour.
Roast your favorite Italian sausage in a 425 degree oven, turning them once, until they are browned, about 30 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them cool. Slice the sausage into 1 inch thick discs. Set aside.
While the sausage is roasting make the dough.
Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Form each into a ball.
Stretch each ball into a flat round about 10 inches in diameter. Set the rounds aside covered with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel so they don’t form a dry crust.
Turn your oven up to its highest setting. Mine goes to 550 degrees.
Place the dough rounds on a well-floured work surface. Scatter about 4 tablespoons of sauteed escarole on the bottom half of the dough round, leaving a half inch border at the edge. You want a layer of escarole about an inch and a half high. (The sauteed escarole recipe excerpted from my free Italian Vegetable eCookbook is below.)
Top the escarole with 6 sausage slices. Use enough so that you get some sausage in every bite.
Cover the the sausage and escarole with slices of fresh mozzarella.
Fold the top half of the calzone over the bottom half with the filling to form the turnover-shaped calzone. Line up the edges and press down with you finger to seal the dough tightly so that none of the filling leaks while baking.
Brush the calzone lightly with EVOO.
Place the calzone on a well-floured pizza peel and at a 20 degree angle slide them from the peel onto the baking stone. (If you don’t have a baking stone put the calzone on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake on the middle shelf of your oven.)
You may have to turn the calzone once if they are not baking evenly.
Bake until the calzone are golden brown about 10 minutes.
Let them cool a bit before serving.
Here’s the sauteed escarole recipe excerpted from my free Italian Vegetable eBook.
My mom made this roast often. It’s zesty and flavorful.
The roast is easy, delicious, and looks great on the plate. I use a beef eye of the round just the way my mother did. This cut is readily available, and not too expensive.
Make a small hole all the way through the roast and stuff the hole with garlic and parsley. The garlic and parsley infuse their flavor throughout the roast.
Sear the outside of the roast in a hot skillet to form a nice crust all around and pop it in the oven to finish cooking atop a bed of celery, carrot, onion and parsley. You’ll have a nice pan gravy when the roast is done.
You should be eating in about an hour or so.
Serve the roast with your favorite sides – garlic smashed potatoes and sauteed spinach maybe? A gutsy red wine will hold up to this roast with the flavor of garlic and parsley in every tender bite. I served it with a bottle of Taurasi from Campania. A nice chianti would be good too.
If you’re lucky you’ll have roast beef left over for some great sandwiches. I just made one on the Sicilian semolina bread with sesame seeds that I baked over the weekend.