Mighty Minestrone–A Hearty Vegetable Soup Recipe

A hearty & healthy vegetable soup
A hearty & healthy vegetable soup

There’s been a chill in the air so I decided to make my first soup of the fall season.

Minestrone was at the top of my list. It’s easy to make, delicious and good for you.

The most difficult part of this recipe is chopping the vegetables. Otherwise, you just let the minestrone simmer away for an hour and a half, stirring from time to time.

The flavorful kale is a perfect companion for the tender meaty borlotti beans surrounded by bits of cabbage, potatoes and zucchini floating in the full-bodied vegetable broth. If you get lucky you may get a piece of nutty pancetta in your next spoonful.

Slice some crusty bread and you’re ready for a hearty lunch or serve minestrone as a substantial first course for your next dinner on a chilly eve.

Leave out the pancetta for a vegetarian version. Either way minestrone is even better the next day so make sure you have some leftover.

Now I’m fortified for whatever fall has in store.

Buon appetio!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Mighty Minestrone--A Hearty Vegetable Soup
 
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Combine your favorite vegetables into this easy soup. You'll be eating delicious, healthy minestrone in about an hour.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • ¼ pound pancetta, diced
  • 1 carrot, quartered and cut in 1" slices
  • 1 celery stalk cut the same as the carrot
  • 1 zucchini cut the same as the carrot
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut the same as the carrot
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ cup fresh Italian flat parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup borlatti or cannelini beans, soaked overnight and drained, or from a can, drained
  • 8 kale leaves, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • ½ head cabbage, sliced in 2-inch ribbons
  • Grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. (Do not add salt until the beans are fully cooked so the beans don't toughen.)
  2. Over medium-high heat put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot.
  3. When the oil is hot cook the pancetta until it takes on some color.
  4. Add the onions to the pot and saute until translucent.
  5. Add the bay leaf, garlic, celery, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini to the pot, mix well to coat everything with olive oil and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add 2 quarts water and bring the soup to a boil.
  7. Add the beans to the pot and cook until the beans begin to soften, about 40 minutes.
  8. Add the kale and cabbage to the pot and stir well.
  9. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of soup, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the beans and vegetables are tender.
  10. When the minestrone is done add parsley, sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir well.
  11. Sprinkle grated parmigiano atop each bowl and a drizzle of good olive oil as you serve it to your guests.

 

Lazy Lasagna Ready in an Hour

A ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour
Ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour

I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.

I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night.  My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.

I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.

I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.

Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.

I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage  browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.

First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.

How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.

The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.

Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.

Buon appetito!

Lazy Lasagna with Tomato-Basil Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian-American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 box oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna sheets
  • 2 pounds ricotta, drained
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano, plus more to sprinkle on top of the lasagna
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian mild sausage out of the casing
  • 2 28-ounce cans imported San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with you hand. Discard any basil in the can and any skin or tough stems.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sea salt to taste. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer.
  5. Add the basil, reduce to low heat and stir the sauce occasionally for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit as it simmers.
  6. As the sauce simmers put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Break up any clumps as you cook the sausage.
  7. Drain off the oil in the pan and set the sausage aside.
  8. In a large bowl beat the eggs then add the ricotta, most of the shredded mozzarella, pecorino, parsley and black pepper. (Set aside a ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella to spread on top of the lasagna.)
  9. Beat well with a fork or whisk.
  10. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread a cup of sauce evenly over the bottom.
  11. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
  12. Lay down a single layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the dish.
  13. Add half the ricotta filling and spread it evenly over the lasagna sheets.
  14. Add another single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta filling. Spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  15. Add the browned sausage in an even layer over the lasagna sheets.
  16. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  17. Spread the remaining ricotta filling evenly over the sheets.
  18. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  19. Sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozzarella and some grated pecorino.
  20. Dot with butter.
  21. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more to lightly brown the cheese on top of the lasagna,
  22. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting the lasagna. (I usually make 3 cuts the length of the lasagna and then 4 cuts across the width to form 3 x 3 inch pieces.)
  23. Put any remaining sauce in a sauce bowl should your guests want to add more to their lasagna.
  24. (The lasagna is even better the next day.)

 

 

Marcella Hazan Tribute: Pork Loin Braised in Milk

A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.
A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.

Just before I left for a wonderful birthday celebration with friends in Provincetown on Cape Cod and Boston I learned that Marcella Hazan, the extraordinary Italian cook and teacher had passed on September 29.

Marcella was one of my early teachers. She opened up a world of authentic Italian cooking using a few choice ingredients and simple methods.

I remember well the sunny Sunday morning many years ago when Marcella visited my restaurant in Providence. We were all on pins and needles. The woman who taught America how to cook and eat Italian would soon be here.

Marcella was in town for a food editors conference and we were hosting a reception at the restaurant the next night featuring her dishes.

Marcella stepped out of the car with her husband Victor and son Giuliano, a cigarette with an incredibly long ash dangling from her lips.

After sidewalk introductions, we walked into the restaurant. I asked what she would like. “Jack Daniels on the rocks,” Marcella replied in her unmistakeable raspy voice. As I poured her bourbon we all sighed and relaxed. We spent 2 incredible days in the kitchen with the giving La Cucina Italiana master.

In honor of a remarkable woman, here’s my riff on one of my favorite recipes from her ground-breaking first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The art of Italian cooking and the art of Italian eating. I cherish the soiled copy she inscribed for me those many years ago. I hope you enjoy this pork loin braised in milk as much as those at my table do.

The delicate flavor of the tender, moist pork loin is enhanced by the clusters of nutty brown pan sauce. Add your favorite sides and dinner is served. I served mine with baby spinach sauteed with extra virgin olive oil.

Mille grazie Marcella. You live on in my kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Pork Loin Braised in Milk
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 2½ cups milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper all over the loin. Pat it in with your hand.
  2. Put the butter and oil in a enameled or heavy-bottemed pot that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat.
  3. When the butter foam subsides add the meat fat side down.
  4. Brown the loin thoroughly on all sides. Lower the heat if the butter turns dark brown.
  5. Slowly add the milk to the pot.
  6. When the milk comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low or even low to keep the milk at a low simmer, cover the pot with the lid a bit askew.
  7. Cook the loin slowly until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  8. Turn and baste the loin occasionally and if needed add more milk.
  9. By the time the loin is cooked the milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters on the bottom of the pan. (If it is still pale remove the loin, uncover the pot, raise the heat and cook briskly until the milk bits darken.)
  10. Remove the loin and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
  11. Skim all the fat from the pot. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up all the residue on the bottom of the pot as the water evaporates. Taste the pan sauce and add more salt and black pepper if desired.
  12. Cut the loin into half-inch slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
  13. Spoon the pan sauce over the slices and serve immediately.

 

 

Artichoke, Leek & Potato Soup

Tasty artichoke slices, leeks and potato in a thick thyme flavored broth
Tasty artichoke slices, leeks and potato in a thick thyme flavored broth

The large artichokes at the farmers market were beautiful. I grabbed 3, heavy and still tightly closed.

Should I stuff them, bake them, steam them? Nope. I wanted something quicker to prepare so I decided to make artichoke soup instead.

The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the artichokes. You want only the tender white heart. Then your about an hour away from eating this delicious simple soup.

In an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot sauté the potatoes and aromatics. When the leeks are soft and the thyme and shallot give off a wonderful aroma add the water and bring the pot to a boil.

Add the artichoke slices and with the pot lightly simmering cook until the potatoes are soft and falling apart and the artichoke slices are tender, maybe an hour or so.

Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and sprinkle each bowl with grated cheese and you’re ready to eat.

The thyme and shallot flavored broth is thickened by the crumbly potatoes. Each spoonful brings the clean and distinctive taste of artichoke, creamy potatoes and sweet leeks splashing over your palate.

Buon appetito!

You can watch me cleaning an artichoke here. But be sure to follow this recipe once the artichokes are cleaned.

Artichoke, Leek & Potato Soup
 
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A thick soup with fresh thinly sliced artichokes, potatoes and leeks in a clean thyme flavored broth.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 artichokes (or in a pinch use frozen artichoke hearts)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¾ pound potatoes, peeled and curt into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts, sliced, washed well
  • 2 shallots, chopped (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Instructions
  1. Clean the artichokes.
  2. Put enough water in a big bowl to cover the sliced artichokes. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Put the lemon halves in the water too. (This acidulated water will keep the artichokes from darkening after you clean and slice them.)
  3. Starting at the bottom, snap off all the tough dark green outer leaves. When you get to the light yellow-green leaves stop.
  4. Cut off the dark top of the remaining leaves. (A serrated knife works best.)
  5. With a paring knife cut off the stem and peel away any tough green on the bottom of the heart. You just want the tender white part.
  6. Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the choke (the hairy part in the center of the heart) with a pointed spoon or cut out with a paring knife. (You now have a cleaned, tender artichoke heart that is white and light green in color.)
  7. Peel the dark tough skin from the stem.
  8. As you clean each artichoke lay the artichoke heart on a cutting board cut side down. Cut each half vertically into ½ inch slices. Slice the peeled stem into slices too. Put the artichoke slices in the acidulated water.
  9. Put the olive oil in an enameled or heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat.
  10. When the oil is hot add the potatoes, coat with the oil and cook for about 3 minutes.
  11. Add the leeks and shallots, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  12. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sea salt to taste.
  13. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about a minute.
  14. Pour in the water and over high heat bring to a boil.
  15. Drain the sliced artichoke hearts and add them to the pot. Bring the soup to a vigorous simmer.
  16. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the soup uncovered until potatoes and artichokes are tender, about an hour. (The potatoes should have broken down a bit to thicken the soup).
  17. Stir in the chopped parsley.
  18. Top each bowl of soup with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Cabbage Steam-Sauteed with Pancetta

Sauteed Cabbage with Pancetta
Sauteed Cabbage with Pancetta

Desperation one night led to this tasty dish.

I bought a head of cabbage intending to make an Italian-American cole slaw. It didn’t happen. Now what?

As I looked in the fridge for something to eat when I got home from a long day at work the cabbage caught my eye. Next to the cabbage was a fat slice of house-cured pancetta from my butcher. Bingo!

In less than a half-hour those 2 ingredients and a hunk of crusty bread became my light dinner.

Saute small cubes of pancetta in a pot with a little olive oil. When the pancetta is golden-brown add the cabbage and toss the cabbage with the pancetta. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a little water, cover the pot and let the cabbage steam until it is soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook the cabbage until the water is almost all gone.

Put the cabbage on a serving plate and drizzle with olive oil and your done.

The mellow sweet cabbage strewn with salty, meaty pancetta is a complex taste and texture treat, simply delicious. So much flavor from just 2 quickly cooked ingredients.

Serve the cabbage as a side for meat and fish or eat it up for a light meal.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cabbage Steam-Sauteed with Pancetta
 
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2 ingredients, cabbage and pancetta, quickly cooked yield a dish with full flavor and texture for a light meal or a side for meat or fish.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • ¼ pound pancetta, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a finishing drizzle
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Cut the cabbage into quarters.
  2. Cut out the core and thinly slice the cabbage.
  3. Put the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  4. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and sauté until the pancetta is golden brown all over.
  5. Add the cabbage, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix the cabbage well with the pancetta.
  6. Add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is soft and tender.
  8. Uncover and cook until the water is almost all evaporated.
  9. Put the cabbage and pancetta on a serving platter, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

 

Calamari Salad

Calamari Salad
Calamari Salad

I’m cooking dinner as a birthday gift for a friend and I’m in the mood for this calamari salad as part of the antipasti.

The steamed calamari is sweet and tender bathed in the zesty olive oil and lemon dressing. The celery and onion add a crunchy textural note. The mellow roasted pepper strips and buttery Castelvetrano olives fill out the flavor palette.

You can make calamari salad in about 20 minutes. Just chill it in the fridge and you’re ready to eat.

Buon appetito!

Calamari Salad
 
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Sweet tender calamari with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing with celery and onion adding a crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • The whole peel and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ pounds calamari bodies and tentacles, cleaned and bodies cut into ½ inch rings
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • ½ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, cut in slivers
  • 4 celery stalks with leaves, sliced thin (I like to use the tender, pale green inner stalks.)
  • ½ cup roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon hot chili flakes
Instructions
  1. Put 2 inches of water in a Dutch oven or pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the bay leaves and lemon peel and boil for a few minutes until they release their aromas.
  3. Set a colander or steamer over but not touching the water.
  4. Add the calamari rings and tentacles into colander or steamer lower the heat so the water is simmering. Cover the pot and cook until calamari is just cooked through and is opaque, about 5 to 6 minutes. (I taste the calamari to ensure that I take them out when they are cooked but tender. Don't over cook the calamari or it will toughen.)
  5. In the meantime in a large bowl combine the onion, olives, celery, roasted pepper, parsley, salt, oregano, peperoncino, olive oil and lemon juice.
  6. Add the cooked calamari to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients and olive oil and lemon dressing.
  7. Chill the calamari salad before serving.

 

Braised Baby Back Ribs with Potatoes

Braised Babyback Ribs & Potatoes with a rosemary-sage gravy
Braised Baby Back Ribs & Potatoes with an Onion-Rosemary-Sage Gravy

I’m back in Emilia with this dish, the region surrounding Parma (prosciutto, parmigiano reggiano) and Modena (balsamic vinegar) that lies in north-central Italy.

They like their pork in these parts. This is a simple but really rich stew. The potatoes begin to break apart while braising with the ribs and help thicken the sauce.

The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and the soft and creamy potatoes are coated with the sweet, rich, thick onion-rosemary-sage pan gravy.

You almost don’t have to chew at all. The pork melts in your mouth. The potatoes and gravy fill your mouth with complex, deep flavor.

This is a messy meal for me. I can’t resist picking up a rib and pulling off the pork with my teeth. My fork gets dirty as I pick up the potatoes and gravy that have to be part of each mouthful.

This dish will take you about 90 minutes to make. with 30 minutes of prep and 60 minutes waiting for the tender and moist ribs and creamy potatoes to finish cooking in the rosemary-sage braise.

Serve the ribs and potatoes with spinach quickly sauteed with garlic in extra virgin olive oil and you have a one-plate dinner.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Braised Babybacks with Potatoes
 
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Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs and creamy potatoes braised in a fresh rosemary-sage broth.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 rack babyback ribs, about one and a half pounds
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut in one-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Season the ribs on both sides with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Cut the babybacks into individual ribs and remove any excess fat.
  3. Put a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  4. When the oil starts to ripple put in the ribs and cook until you have a golden crust on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
  5. Remove the ribs to a plate and set aside.
  6. Discard excess oil in the pot leaving just enough to saute the onions.
  7. Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft and take on a golden hue, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the fresh herbs and mix well with the onions.
  9. Add the tomato paste and mix well with the onions. Cook for about 1 minute to toast the paste.
  10. Raise the heat to high. Put the ribs back in the pot and add the wine and simmer vigorously until the wine is almost entirely evaporated. Scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pot to incorporate the flavor nuggets in the liquid.
  11. Add the potatoes to coat with the onion mixture.
  12. Add the broth and bring the pot to a boil.
  13. Turn down the heat to a low simmer, partially cover the pot and braise until the meat is tender and falls off the bone, the potatoes are partially falling apart and the gravy has thickened, about an hour or so. Stir the pot from time to time.
  14. Put the ribs and potatoes on a serving platter and spoon the gravy on top garnished with a rosemary sprig or 2 and a few sage leaves.
  15. Serve immediately.

 

New Gianni Video Now Live

Rome's Campo di Fiori, an open-air produce market
My produce guy in Rome’s Campo di Fiori

Sorry if you couldn’t access the video episode Gianni: From Italy to North Beach in my earlier post.

You can watch it now.

Here’s the Hungry Village video. Meet some of my friends from a week living in a Roman neighborhood and how that experience colors my Italian-American lifestyle here in San Francisco.

More from the Hungry Village people on Facebook and their website.

Keep on cooking.

Buon appetito!

Fat Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue
Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue

Tomatoes overflow the farmers market. I bought fresh organic San Marzano tomatoes with this pasta dish in mind.

I’m in the mood for rich and creamy so I’m mixing ricotta with the quick-cooked tomato sauce and serving it with giant dried pasta tubes.

The classic Neapolitan Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro is a late summer treat.

Paccheri means “slaps” in Italian. Gentle face slaps not hostile ones.

The fat tubes collapse on themselves. The pasta makes a slapping sound when picked up with a fork because of the creamy sauce trapped inside.

Paccheri are a big mouthful of pasta so you need a sauce that will hold up to them. This one fits the bill.

I usually just add basil to a quick-cooked fresh summer tomato sauce. But I remembered that sometimes my Mom added oregano to her tomato-basil sauce so I did too.

The mellow creamy ricotta-tomato sauce coats the fat pasta inside and out. Add a dollop of the tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil and oregano shine behind the sweet tomatoes. The freshly ground black pepper lightly tingles your tongue. You won’t believe the flavor wallop from so few ingredients quickly cooked.

If you can’t find paccheri use rigatoni, ziti or penne instead. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes use the ripest tomatoes available in your market. In a pinch use a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.

Buon appetito!

 

Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce
 
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A creamy light ricotta and fresh San Marzano sauce coats the fat pasta tubes inside & out.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams dried paccheri or your favorite imported tube pasta
  • 1 pound fresh San Marzano tomatoes or the ripest summer tomatoes available in your market (or in a pinch a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus more for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted pasta water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Make an "X" in the top of each tomato. Put the tomatoes in the hot pasta water until the skin begins to blister, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl and when they are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to form a smooth sauce. Or finely chop the tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.
  5. In a sauce pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the sauce pan along with the basil and oregano sprigs.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  8. Stirring occasionally cook the sauce until most of the tomato water is evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Combine the ricotta and the grated pecorino in a large bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  10. When the pasta water is at a vigorous boil throw in the pasta. Follow the instructions and cook the pasta until al dente. Before draining the pasta reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  11. Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Stir well.
  12. Keep the remainder of the tomato sauce warm over low heat.
  13. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, rip in a few fresh basil leaves and fresh oregano leaves and black pepper to taste. (Add more pasta water for a looser, creamier sauce.)
  14. Serve immediately topping each plate with a little more tomato sauce left in the sauce pan and a light sprinkle of grated pecorino.

 

Food, Family & Friends

Making My Mom's Lasagna with My Godson
Passing It On–Making My Mom’s Lasagna with My Godson

How often do you get to put something inside someone’s body?

No this ain’t a sex post but it’s close.

I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy when I sat down with my friends at Hungry Village. Cameras rolling I riffed on what draws me back to Italy each year and what fuels my passion for sharing my food with family and friends in my home and with you on my blog.

I hope you enjoy a short video of my time living in a Roman neighborhood and my Italian-American lifestyle in San Francisco’s North Beach.

The folks at Hungry Village shoot and produce my video episodes. Check out these talented Hungry Village friends on Facebook and on the Hungry Village website.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce

Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.
Squash Blossom Cream Sauce with fettuccine.

Are you afraid of squash blossoms that are flooding farmers markets now?

Don’t be. The blossoms are versatile and easy to cook up. Grab some if you can.

Stuff the blossoms with mozzarella and anchovy and fry them coated with a light batter. Use them as a topping for a tomato-less pizza. Or make this really simple pasta cream sauce that will be on your table in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Slice the blossoms into 1-inch ribbons. Saute the shallot with butter and extra virgin olive oil. When the shallot is translucent add the blossom ribbons and saffron. Finish with heavy cream and cook until the sauce thickens.

Add the cooked pasta and toss with the sauce to finish cooking. Shut off the heat. Add grated parmigiano and a sprinkle of grated black pepper and toss well.

That’s it. Sit down and eat.

Most of the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta and some will coat it too. The yellow-orange blossoms pleasingly speckle the saffron-tinted pasta and add a hint of zucchini flavor. Mild shallot deepens the flavor of the mellow parmigiano cream sauce.

Every eye-pleasing bite is a mouthful of delicate complex flavor. So simple and so delicious.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Fettuccine with Squash Blossom Cream Sauce
 
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Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams fresh tagliatelle, linguine or fettuccine. Or use a long dried pasta. I used fettuccine here
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, sliced into ribbons
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted water on to boil.
  2. Cut off the dark green base of the squash blossom and the stem. The pistil should fall out. Discard the pistil and stem piece.
  3. Slice the blossoms horizontally into 1-inch ribbons.
  4. Put the butter and olive in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  5. When the butter begins to bubble add the shallot and cook until the the shallot is translucent, about 1 minute.
  6. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  7. Add the sliced blossoms and sea salt to taste to the pan and stir to coat the blossoms with the butter and oil.
  8. Cook until the blossoms soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
  9. Add the saffron and mix well.
  10. Add the cream and cook stirring well until the cream begins to thicken.
  11. In the meantime, when the water is at a rapid boil. add the fresh or dried pasta (Fresh pasta should take less than 5 minutes to rise to the surface and be perfectly al dente. Follow the package directions for dried pasta. Cook until al dente.)
  12. While pasta is cooking warm the sauce over low heat.
  13. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and the grated parmigiano. Mix well to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce and cheese.
  14. Serve immediately with extra grated parmigiano on the table for your guests.

 

Grilled Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

Grilled swordfish with Samarglio Sauce
Grilled swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

The Sicilian summer heat came early one morning.

Rows of fish packed on ice sparkled in the morning sun as we searched the open-air fish market for the perfect catch for dinner.

I almost bumped into this guy in the picture below swinging a long stick with neon orange plastic strips on the end to keep the flies moving.

With this heat we’d cook on the grill when we got back to our house in Ortigia on the Ionian coast.

We settled on 1-inch steaks cut from a huge swordfish just out of the sea.

To finish the dish I made Salmoriglio, a light uncooked sauce with fresh oregano and parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and garlic popular throughout southern Italy and perfect for grilled swordfish steaks.

Mix up a batch as you get the fire going. I takes about 5 minutes to make the sauce. Let it sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors meld.

Lightly brush the sauce over both sides of the swordfish steaks and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Grill the steaks over medium coals or medium-high heat in a grill pan. Grill the first side giving them a quarter turn halfway through to create the hatched grill marks, about 4 minutes total. Finish them quickly on the second side so that they are still moist and tender when you take them off the grill, about 3 minutes more.

Put the swordfish on a plate and drizzle with the Salmoriglio sauce. Put the extra salmoriglio in a sauce bowl so you guests can add more if they want.

The firm and moist swordfish steak is smoky from the grill. The fresh oregano and parsley are front and center in the clean and light lemon and olive oil sauce with garlic and hot red pepper in the background. A wonderful combination that lets the fresh briny swordfish shine.

I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Buon appetito!

Salmoriglio Sauce
 
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Quick grilled swordfish steaks with a light olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh parsley & oregano sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried chili flakes or a small hot red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Sicilian Open Air Fish Market

Eggplant “Meatballs”

Eggplant Meatballs
Eggplant Meatballs

An old woman in a soiled white apron stood at the top of the stairs leading to a basement trattoria a cigarette dangling out of her mouth.

We were wandering around the backstreets in Naples behind the big fancy hotels facing the marina and Castel dell’Ova (The Egg Castle).

We were hungry. It was just after noon. Too early for lunch? I went up to the woman to ask is the restaurant was serving yet.

“We’re open. I’m taking a break from frying eggplant meatballs” she said in Italian.

I never had eggplant meatballs (polpette di melanzane) so we had to go in. Were they just eggplant or did they have meat too?

That Neapolitan memory floated into my culinary consciousness this morning so I had to fry up some eggplant meatballs.

There’s no meat in this easy recipe. The hardest part is forming the small balls in your hand. Make a big batch for your antipasti course or serve them as a side for roasted or grilled meats or fish.

Pop one of these zesty marble-sized balls in your mouth whole. The crunchy exterior gives way to the soft mellow eggplant center flavored with pecorino and garlic.

You can also fry eggplant meatballs without the breadcrumb coating, add a simple tomato sauce and serve them with pasta. This is a versatile recipe. Make it part of your Italian kitchen repertoire.

Buon appetito!

Eggplant Meatballs
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 eggplant, about 1 pound
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat Italian parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fine breadcrumbs for coating
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Cut the eggplant with the skin on into 1-inch cubes.
  3. When the water is boiling put the eggplant in. Press them down once in a while because they like to float on the surface.
  4. Boil them for about 10 minutes until the cubes are tender.
  5. Drain them in a colander and press them down with your hand or wooden spoon to get out more water. You want the eggplant as dry as possible.
  6. While the eggplant is boiling, put the rest of the ingredients (except the olive oil and the breadcrumbs for coating) in a large bowl and mix well.
  7. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle mince it fine.
  8. Add the eggplant to the bowl with the other ingredients and mix everything well.
  9. Roll the eggplant mixture in your hand to form 1-2 inch diameter balls. Lay them out on a plate or baking sheet in a single layer.
  10. Put the breadcrumbs for the coating in a shallow bowl and lightly coat the balls. Put them back on the baking sheet or plate in a single layer.
  11. Heat enough extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan (I use my 9-inch cast iron pan) to a depth of at least ½ inch. You need sufficient oil or the balls won't fry evenly.
  12. Fry the balls until they are golden all over. Turn them gently so they don't break apart. Take them out of the pan and drain them on a plate lined with paper towel.
  13. Serve immediately.
  14. Makes about 2 dozen eggplant meatballs.

 

 

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages
Sauteed broccoli rabe and roasted Sicilian & Calabrese sausages

Here’s one of my favorite dishes that’s easy and quick to make for a weeknight dinner. You’ll be eating in a half hour or so.

Roast the sausage in a hot 425 degree oven until they’re golden brown.

While the sausage is roasting steam/saute the broccoli rabe in a big covered pot with garlic, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil.

The broccoli rabe is infused with garlic and the hot chili flakes add a perky sparkle as you swallow.

I chose two Little City Meats homemade sausages to diversify a bit. One is the mild Sicilian with fennel seeds the other a hot Calabrese with dried chili.

Sometimes I want to extend the heat and I’ll grab a hot Calabrese. Sometimes I want to calm it all down and go for the mild Sicilian instead. Either way with a crusty chunk of Italian bread you’ll be in heaven.

For a vegetarian alternative I often just have a bowl of broccoli rabe with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the cooking broth.

Either way quick, healthy and delicious. Your dinner all on one plate.

Buon appetito!

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of broccoli rabe
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ pounds your favorite Italian sausages
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the sausages in a roasting pan large enough so that they have room between them so they'll roast and not steam.
  3. While the sausage is roasting prepare the broccoli rabe.
  4. Remove any wilted or discolored leaves and the tough large leaf from each broccoli rabe stem.
  5. Cut off the tough bottom end of each stem. (You can peel the lower end of the stem but I usually cut it at the juncture of the floret stem and the lowest leaf.)
  6. Wash the broccoli rabe and drain them.
  7. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  8. Add the broccoli rabe and sea salt to taste.
  9. Pour in the water, bring to a boil, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  10. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes.
  11. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is evaporated and the broccoli rabe is tender, about 5 minutes.
  12. (If you want a milder broccoli rabe blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and drain them before adding to the hot olive oil. Finish cooking as above.)
  13. Return the sausages to the pot to warm them through.
  14. Serve the sausages on a platter, with the broccoli rabe on the side.

Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle

Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappadelle
Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappardelle

I scored the first of the organic San Marzano tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms at the Thursday Galleria farmers market in San Francisco’s financial district.

I was lazy and wanted a simple sauce so I didn’t cook it at all. This pasta can be on your table in about 30 minutes.

Just pop the San Marzanos in boiling water to loosen the skin and peel them. Roughly chop the tomatoes and let them marinate with extra virgin olive oil, basil and garlic for 30 minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil.

When the pasta is cooked add the marinated tomatoes and toss to coat the pasta well. Top each serving with a ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a light shower of grated parmigiano and eat.

You can use any fresh tomato for this pasta sauce. As long as they’re ripe and sweet, cherry, pear or heirloom tomatoes work well too. The heat of the pasta will bring out their full sweet flavor.

I didn’t make my own pasta. I bought some fresh pappardelle at the market but you can use long or short dried pasta too. Make it with penne or another short dried pasta and serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled and you have an Italian pasta salad for your summer buffet table.

I love the pure raw flavors of the sweet tomatoes and basil bathed in the garlic-infused olive oil. The toothsome pappadelle captures it all and adds a nutty wheat note to every bite.

If you want to have a quick cooked fresh sauce check out my San Marzano sauce with choke the priest pasta video episode.

Buon appetito!

Uncooked Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle
 
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An uncooked fresh San Marzano tomato sauce marinated for 30 minutes with basil and garlic served over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves roughly torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh pappardelle or your favorite fresh or dried pasta
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Score the top of each tomato with a cross and put them in the boiling water for about 20 seconds to loosen the skin. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl.
  3. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.
  5. Cut the halves into strips and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  6. Put the tomatoes in a bowl with the basil, garlic and olive oil. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Set the bowl aside and let the tomatoes marinate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Stir occasionally.
  8. Add sea salt to the water and bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente so that it is tender but still has a toothsome bite.
  9. Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add the marinated tomatoes and mix to coat the pasta well.
  10. Add a fresh ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmigiano to each plate of pasta.
  11. Serve immediately.