Stracciatella–Italian Egg Drop Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buona Pasqua! Happy Spring!

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

 

Chicken Roman-Style with Peppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Happy Spring!

Pastiera and Rustica Easter Pies
Pastiera and Rustica Easter Pies

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

St. Joseph’s Day Spaghetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy St. Joseph’s Day. Buon appetito!

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

Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

2 North Beach Pizza Margheritas On Top 10 List

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Bravo!

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

Asparagus Frittata–Spring Has Sprung

Asparagus Frittata
Asparagus Frittata

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon apettito!

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

 

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Steak and Mushrooms with Baby Arugula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

Stay Healthy–Eat Italian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

Oscar Worthy “Moonstruck” Eggs

Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by "Moonstruck"
Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by “Moonstruck”

In anticipation of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards I cooked up some Oscar-worthy eggs this morning.

Ever see Norman Jewison’s 1987 movie about a Brooklyn Italian-American family? “Moonstruck” won Oscars for Olympia Dukakis and Cher.

There’s a kitchen scene where Dukakis is making these eggs for herself and Cher.

“Moonstruck” eggs were a popular item on my restaurant’s brunch menu. There’s no better combination than peppers and eggs. We served them with roasted pork and fennel sausage.

In Italy this dish is known as “birds in a nest”. They are super simple and they make a big impression for that special Saturday or Sunday morning. Add your favorite potatoes and breakfast meat and that’s it.

Here’s the “Moonstruck” kitchen scene that is the basis of my recipe.

Buon appetito!

Moonstruck Eggs
 
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A simple but fancy egg dish inspired by Olympia Dukakas cooking breakfast for Cher in the 1987 movie "Moonstruck".
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1 slice rustic bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Punch out a whole in the middle of the bread slice big enough to hold the egg.
  2. Put a skillet over medium high heat and add just enough of the EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan well.
  3. Place the bread slice in the pan. Toast briefly on both sides.
  4. Cut the roasted pepper into small strips and heat them in the skillet.
  5. Crack an egg in the whole in the bread.
  6. Let the egg cook until the white sets up well, about 2 minutes.
  7. Carefully flip the egg over to cook the yolk side to your taste.
  8. (If you're scared of flipping the egg, just put a cover over it and let it set to your desired doneness.)
  9. Top the egg with the roasted pepper and salt and black pepper to taste.
  10. Serve immediately by itself or with your favorite breakfast potatoes and breakfast meat.
  11. (If your making more than 1 Moonstruck egg, cook as many as fit comfortably in your pan. I can eat 2 of these for my breakfast or brunch.)

 

 

Beef Brisket Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket in the Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

When I was in New York City a couple of weeks ago I ducked into a deli for a beef brisket sandwich before heading to the airport to come back home.

Unfortunately, the sandwich sucked. I left most of it uneaten on the plate.

Back in San Francisco, I still had a craving for tender, succulent long-braised beef brisket in a rich gravy. I couldn’t get it out of mind.

Luckily, on my last visit to Little City Meats on Stockton at Vallejo, the boys had plenty of beef brisket in the case. I had to get a hunk to satisfy my desires.

Here’s my take on how this dish might be made in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. I’ll let you know if I find it on a menu when I’m in Rome this spring.

Beef brisket isn’t that hard to make. Most of the time is spent waiting for the brisket to slow-braise in the pot for a couple of hours in a broth flavored with aromatics.

You end up with fork-tender beef in a rich, mellow gravy. Serve the brisket with the carrots and celery scattered on top, pour the gravy all over and dinner is ready.

Make sure you get a big piece of brisket. Thick slices moistened with gravy make a fantastic sandwich. You want to have leftovers so you can stuff a crunchy Italian roll the next day.

Buon appetito!

Beef Brisket from the Roman Jewish Ghetto
 
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Beef brisket long braised with aromatic vegetables in the style of the Roman Jewish Ghetto
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds beef brisket
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large stems Italian flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the celery and carrots in 2-3-inch pieces.
  2. Smash the garlic cloves and peel.
  3. Cut the onion in half and then quarter.
  4. Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dust the brisket with the flour.
  6. Put a large enameled or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO.
  7. When the oil is hot put the brisket in the pot, fat side down.
  8. Brown the brisket on all sides.
  9. Put the brisket on a plate and set aside.
  10. Drain out the oil.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO to the pot.
  12. Add the tomato paste and toast it in the oil until it's color darkens a bit.
  13. Put in the celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and onion, mix the vegetables with the tomato paste and saute until the onion is just translucent.
  14. Add the red wine and deglaze the pot, scraping all the brown bits on the bottom.
  15. Simmer about a minute or 2 to let the wine alcohol burn off and the brown bits dissolve into the broth.
  16. Put the brisket and any juices on the plate back in the pot.
  17. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and about half of the brisket.
  18. Bring the pot to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours until the brisket is fork tender.
  19. Put the brisket and some of the carrot, celery and onion pieces on a platter and set aside.
  20. Pour the gravy and the vegetable pieces through a strainer into a bowl.
  21. With a big spoon push down on the vegetables pieces in the strainer to get all of the flavorful liquid into the bowl.
  22. Return the gravy to the pot, simmer to reduce and thicken the gravy, about 3 minutes.
  23. Slice the brisket and put the slices on a platter. Serve some of the carrots, celery and onion on the side. Pour the pan gravy on top.
  24. Serve immediately.

 

Spring has arrived.

Buon appetito!

 

Farro with Tuna & Tomato

Farro with Tuna and Tomato
Farro with Tuna and Tomato

Farro is the new kitchen darling. A few years ago most people didn’t know anything about this nutty, nutritious ancient grain. I just love it.

I usually make cold farro salads of one kind or another. But, here’s a delicious hot dish that you can serve as a first or main course.

Farro is easy to make. Cook farro as you do rice or barley. Dress it up like pasta and it’s ready to enjoy. Fast and easy.

This dish is from Puglia, the southern Italian region on the Adriatic.

The nutty, toothsome farro is enrobed in a sweet tomato sauce flavored by briny cured tuna and capers. The red pepper flakes add a hot sparkle at the end of every bite.

Want a break from pasta? Make farro.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna, Tomatoes & Capers
 
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Farro dressed with a cured tuna, tomato and caper sauce, a wonderful mix of farm and sea. Easy to make and full of zesty, nutty flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Rinse the farro and drain in a strainer.
  2. Put the farro in a pot with 5 cups of water, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of EVOO
  3. Over medium-high bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and let the farro simmer with the lid ajar.
  5. Cook until the farro is tender stirring occasionally.
  6. If the water is not absorbed, pour it out and remove the bay leaf. Put the cover on the pot and put the farro aside.
  7. Pour 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a pot or large skillet.
  8. Add the garlic slices and the pepper flakes.
  9. Saute until the garlic starts to take on some color, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and the capers.
  11. Heat to a slow boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl.
  13. Flake it into large pieces and add it to the tomatoes. Stir well.
  14. Cook for 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are reduced and thicker.
  15. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  16. Add the farro to the pot and stir well into the tomatoes.
  17. Cook until the farro is heated through.
  18. Add the chopped parsley and stir well with the farro.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Italian Grilled Cheese

Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese
Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese

Here’s an Italian twist on the wildly popular grilled cheese sandwich, mozzarella in carozza (mozzarella in a cart).

My Dad made this Neapolitan treat when I was a kid and I still make it often.

You have to construct the “cart” to carry the mozzarella. I skewer the corners of the sandwich with toothpicks so the mozzarella doesn’t fall out when I dip it in the egg wash and fry it in the pan.

Forget about tomato soup on the side with this grilled cheese. A quick, lemon, caper and anchovy sauce is the perfect companion for the melted mozzerella oozing out of the egg-dipped bread.

My recipe is for 2 at the table. Make more if you need them. The recipe is scalable. Serve a salad on the side and you have a meal.

Buon appetito!

Italian Grilled Cheese
 
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An Italian grilled cheese sandwich with caper-anchovy sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 thin slices of sturdy white or whole wheat bread, crust removed
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of water or milk
  • Canola oil (or your favorite) for frying
  • 1tablespoon Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Make the sauce.
  2. Put the olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook until the garlic just starts to color.
  3. Add the anchovies and capers and stir until the anchovy dissolves.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  5. Pour in the white wine and lemon juice and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half and thickens. Set aside.
  6. Lay out 2 slices of bread on a work surface and cover each with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Don't let the mozzarella hang over the edge of the bread.
  7. Lay a bread slice on top and skewer each corner with a toothpick to hold the sandwich together.
  8. Put the flour on a dish.
  9. Beat the egg and water together in a shallow bowl.
  10. Put a about a ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. (Test the oil with a crust of bread. It's hot enough if the crust sizzles.)
  11. Dredge the sandwiches in the flour. Be sure to cover both sides and the edges too. Tap off the excess flour.
  12. Dip both sides of the sandwich in the egg. Moisten the sides too. (I use my hands but use tongs to maneuver the sandwich if you wish.)
  13. When the oil is hot enough, put the sandwiches in the saute pan and fry until they are golden brown on both sides and the mozzarella is melted, a minute or 2 on each side.
  14. Put the sandwiches on paper towel to drain.
  15. Heat the sauce, stir in the parsley and spoon some on each plate.
  16. Cut the sandwiches in half and put them on the plates.
  17. Serve immediately.

 

Baked Ziti for Valentine’s Day?

A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.
A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.

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.

A fresh, crunchy and complex Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives is a perfect first course. Prosecco or Pinot Grigio pairs well with the salad in a citrus vinaigrette.

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.

Still want to go out for Valentine’s Day dinner? Try one of these North Beach restaurants.

Buon appetito! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Baked Ziti alla Sorrentino
 
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Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Marinara Sauce
  • 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
  • Baked Ziti
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Marinara Sauce
  3. 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.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Set the sauce aside.
  7. Baked Ziti
  8. Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
  9. Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
  10. 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.
  11. 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,
  12. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
  13. Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
  14. Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
  15. Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
  16. Serve immediately.