Chicken with a Garlic, Anchovy, Caper and Lemon Sauce

I’m in Ortigia, a small island off the coast of Siracusa, Sicily. A swordfish dish I ate the first night here in local restaurant included the ingredients in this dish.

Today we decided to eat in the apartment we rented. So I bought everything I needed in a local market to cook at home for lunch. I hope you enjoy it. We did.

If you’re hungry and don’t have much time to cook, this flavorful chicken dish will be in your mouth in about 15 minutes.

I’m a breast guy but you can use thighs if you want.

The chicken is bathed in a rich sauce enhanced by the anchovy umami, garlic, capers and freshened with a squeeze of lemon. Add a little chile flakes to give a little sparkle as you finish each bite.

After you plate the chicken and pour all the sauce on top, sprinkle the chopped parsley all over for some color appeal.

Buon appetito!

—Gianni

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or your favorite part
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • pinch of chile flakes (optional)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Directions

  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and 3 smashed garlic cloves.
  3. When the garlic starts to take on color add the chicken and saute until a golden crust starts to form, about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the chicken over and saute for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Remove the chicken to a plate and set it aside. Remove the garlic cloves.
  6. Add the anchovies, capers and minced garlic to the hot pan and saute until the garlic just becomes translucent. Be sure to break up the anchovies so that they dissolve completely.
  7. Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and scrape the fond, the brown bits on the bottom of pan, and stir until they are melted into the sauce. (If you need more sauce, add some dry white wine, chicken stock or water.)
  8. Put the chicken back in the hot pan, spoon sauce all over and heat the chicken for about a minute more.
  9. Plate the chicken, pour the sauce on top and sprinkle chopped parsley all over.
  10. Serve immediately with your favorite sides

Manicotti Kitchen Invasion

Only in America! You Can’t Get These Manicotti in Italy

I’ve been eating at North Beach’s da Flora for over two decades and never had a bad meal there. When my friends and I want to share a leisurely family-style 4-course meal we always head to da Flora on Columbus.

As the seasons change my network buzzes. Everyone wants to know what Spring bounty has made its way into the da Flora kitchen. The hand-written menu constantly evolves as spring progresses.

Jen McMahon, the genius in the da Flora kitchen, scours the local markets to find the best local organic ingredients. Jen is a master at giving her Italian inspired food a Bay Area Slow Food twist.

We’re making manicotti and this dish will certainly be controversial with my fans in Italy. You will not find manicotti (little sleeves) on a menu in Italia. Italians call this dish cannelloni (little pipes) made with either crespelle (crepes) or pasta.

Jen and I both grew up on the east coast immersed in the southern Italian immigrant food traditions they brought with them. But now our Italian ancestors were cooking in America using ingredients available in their local markets.

I loved my Mom’s manicotti. We called them “manigot” in the Neapolitan dialect.

When friends were in town recently we headed to da Flora and there on the menu were these spring manicotti. We had to have them as part of our pasta course and they were superb.

So here is Jen’s San Francisco version of manicotti for you to make in your kitchen. It’s a simple dish featuring the best of the early spring bounty, broccoli di rape for the delicate ricotta filling and early sweet red spring onions, mellow green garlic and fresh oregano for the marinara. The aged provolone grated on top makes this simple dish soar.

This recipe makes 8-10 manicotti. Serve two manicotti per person. While light, they are pleasantly filling.

Crespelle (Crepes)

Ingredients

  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2/3 cup all-purpose unbeached flour
  3. 1 cup whole milk
  4. A pinch of sea salt
  5. A sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil.

Instructions

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender or mix by hand in a bowl.
  2. Be sure all of the flour is incorporated. You want a very smooth mixture with no clumps of flour.
  3. Chill the crespelle batter for about 15 minutes.
  4. Put a small sauté pan (we used a 9-inch pan) over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil.
  6. When the oil starts to shimmer lower the heat to medium and pour in about a half-cup of batter to form a thin crespelle that thinly fills the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the crespelle starts to brown at the edges in about a minute flip the crespelle over and cook for a minute more.
  8. Take the crespelle out of the pan and put them on a paper towel lined plate in a single layer.
  9. Set the crespelle aside.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 stalks green garlic, trimmed
  • 3 stalks red spring onions, trimmed
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, use the leaves only, stripped from the stalk and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano DOP tomatoes (use 2 cans if you want to have some sauce left over for future use)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put a pot over medium-high heat and add the oil
  2. When the oil starts to shimmer reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and onion.
  3. Stir the onions and garlic and saute until translucent (you don’t want to pick up any color).
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir.
  5. Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer.
  6. Add the oregano, sugar, salt and pepper to the marinara and stir well.
  7. Cook until the sauce, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces by about a third in volume.
  8. Take the marinara sauce off the heat and set aside to cool.

Filling

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained if necessary
  • 1 bunch broccoli di rabe, blanched and chopped.
  • Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound grated provolone to sprinkle on top of the manicotti before putting them in the oven.

Instructions

  1. Drain the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl if there is a lot of whey (white watery liquid).
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Blanch the broccoli di rape stalks in the boiling water for a minute or so.
  4. Drain the broccoli di rape.
  5. Put the broccoli di rape in a food processor and pulse several times to mince.
  6. Add the ricotta and salt and pepper to the processor and pulse to mix the ingredients together.

Assembly

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Layer a casserole dish with a layer of marinara. (You can bake the manicotti in individual dishes or make them all in a larger casserole dish.)
  3. Lay out the crespelle on a work surface and put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the crespelle.
  4. Fold up one side and then the other.
  5. With the folded side down, put the manicotti in the casserole.
  6. Add a dollop of marinara on top of each.
  7. Spinkle the grated provolone on top of each.
  8. Put the manicotti in the hot oven and bake until the provolone melts and lightly browns, about 20 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

My Family Christmas Menu Suggestions

Passing It On--Cooking with My Godson
Passing It On–Cooking with My Godson

Some say that the most important meal this season is the Christmas Eve fish dinner. I’m doing the Neapolitan-inspired Feast of Seven Fishes, La Festa dei Sette Pesci.

But you gotta eat after everyone is done opening all their presents Christmas day, right? When I’m back east with family for Christmas, we cook up a fantastic four-course dinner.

3 generations will cook together and our Italian-American dinner will include some dishes that my family has made since they first immigrated to America over a hundred years ago.

We gather around the table at about 2 in the afternoon. The leisurely meal will last until early evening.

Create your own Christmas feast. We’re still working on our final menu but here are some of the dishes that are on our list.

Antipasto (before the meal)

The antipasto is a preview of the meal to come. It’s the icebreaker as your guests settle in at the table. It starts the conversation and tantalizes your taste buds to let you know of the culinary delights to come.

It's easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!
It’s easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!

 

A platter with a selection of Italian salumi (cured meats) and cheeses is a must. Watch me put together a beautiful antipasti platter in this short video.

Neapolitan Christmas Salad with pickled vegetables, cauliflower florets and olives
Neapolitan Christmas Salad with pickled vegetables, cauliflower florets and olives

I may pair the platter with a traditional Neapolitan Christmas salad, insalata di rinforza.

 

 

If we don’t go the platter-salad route I know my family will want some artichokes to start the our Christmas meal.

Easy Crispy Baby Artichokes
Easy Crispy Baby Artichokes

 

These crispy baby artichokes are always a favorite.

Or make one Roman-style stuffed artichoke for each guest.

 

 

 

Primo  Piatto (First Course)

A fancy pasta is our usual choice. We’ll probably make a lasagna. Here are 2 to choose from.

Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.
Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.

 

The lasagna al forno is a bit more complicated but you can assemble it the day before and bake it Christmas day. It’s incredible and well worth the effort.

 

 

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

 

 

This lasagna is a quick version that you can get in the oven in less than 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
Baked crespelle (crepes) stuffed with spinach & ricotta in a light tomato sauce.

 

And I know there will be some votes for one of my Mom’s spinach & ricotta cannelloni in a simple tomato sauce.

 

 

 

Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs
Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs

 

 

For a lighter first course try my delicious “Italian Wedding Soup” with chicken, escarole & tiny veal meatballs. It’s a real crowd pleaser.

 

 

 

Secondo Piatto (Main Course)

Porchetta
Porhcetta–Herb Filled Pork Roast

My choice is my porchetta roast with onions caramelized with balsamic vinegar and rosemary roasted potatoes on the side.

This was the episode that started the “Porchetta War” with a bunch of Italians. If you have time, check out my video on how I beat the Italians at their own game.

If you want to combine these 2 versions of porchetta just ask you butcher for a skin-on pork belly and wrap that around the loin roast before you tie it up and roast it in the oven.

Roasted boneless chicken breast stuffed with spinach & prosciutto
Roasted boneless chicken breast stuffed with spinach & prosciutto

 

 

Or if we don’t do pork, my family hasn’t had my turkey breast stuffed with spinach and prosciutto with a quick pan gravy. Serve it with my garlic mashed potatoes for an easy second course.

 

 

 

 

Dolci (Dessert)

And to end the meal, maybe just some fruit and roasted chestnuts.

Or try these dolci (desserts) that you can make the day before for a bigger end to you meal.

Tiramisu, the Italian "pick-me-up" with mascarpone cream and ladyfingers soaked in espresso & Marsala with chocolate all over
Tiramisu, the Italian “pick-me-up” with mascarpone cream and ladyfingers soaked in espresso & Marsala with chocolate all over

 

Tiramisu is really not that hard to make. After you make the mascarpone filling and the espresso-rum dip for the ladyfingers it’s a snap to assemble.

 

 

 

Easy to make Panettone Bread Pudding
Easy to make Panettone Bread Pudding

 

This time of the year most Italian and Italian-American households have panettone in the house. This sweet bread studded with raisins and candied citrus makes a fantastic panettone bread pudding. It’s ready in no time and even better if you make it the day before.

 

 

Liquore di Fragole (Strawberry Liquore)
Liquore di Fragole (Strawberry Liqueur)

 

A Finishing Touch

Some espresso and maybe one of my homemade liqueurs and you can call it a wrap. Make my liquore di fragole (strawberry liqueur) with its beautiful Christmas hue or limoncello a few days in advance and you’re good to go.

A little Christmas gift for you at the end of the limoncello video, a suggestion for an easy sweet end to your meal

Buon Natale. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Buon Appetito!

Christmas Eve Feast of 7 Fish Recipe Roundup

Fish Market, Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia Sicily

I’ll be with family and friends for Christmas. Our Neapolitan family tradition is to prepare a 7-fish Christmas Eve dinner, La Festa dei Sette Pesci.

Seven fish unless I’m with the Sicilian branch of the family, then it’s 13!

I hope you will be with the ones you love too.

Here’s a collection of my fish dishes that you can make for all your friends and family around your Christmas Eve dinner table to enjoy.

Buon Natale! Happy Holidays!

All in One

Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Cioppino, 7 fish stew, a delicious San Francisco treat

If you want all 7 fish in one pot make cioppino, the San Francisco fish stew treat.

This is my go-to recipe if I want to make something fast and easy for the guests around my table. All 7 fish are cooked in one pot. A hunk of grilled bread scraped with garlic and you’re good to go.

The hardest part of cioppino is the trip to your fishmonger. You can have cioppino on your table in about 30 minutes.

Antipasto Picks

If a 3 or 4-course feast is what you have in mind make these dishes for an antipasto course, many ready in less than a half-hour.

Rice balls with shrimp in the center & a spicy dipping sauce
Rice balls with shrimp in the center & a spicy dipping sauce

Arancini, everybody loves rice balls. They are a perennial favorite at my table.

They come in many different shapes with various fillings.

This version is from my friends at North Beach’s da Flora restaurant.

The arborio rice has shrimp hidden in the middle of the crispy orb. Eat these arancini with or without the aioli. But if you don’t make the dipping sauce you’ll be missing a real treat.

 

Crispy, tender fried calamari with spicy vinegar pepper confetti
Crispy, tender fried calamari with spicy vinegar pepper confetti

You gotta be careful with this one. Often my fried calamari never makes it to the table. Everyone gathers in the kitchen around the stove and grabs a tender fried ring or crunchy tentacle as soon as they come out of the hot oil. If that happens to you make sure you quickly sprinkle some sea salt on the calamari as they drain on paper towel.

If the fried calamari survive poaching in the kitchen make sure that you get them to the table while they are hot out of the oil. That’s the way to maximize your enjoyment.

Succulent mussels & clams quickly steamed in a  flavorful broth
Succulent mussels & clams quickly steamed in a flavorful broth

How about some steamed mussels & clams ready in about 10 minutes?

Be sure to pick out the heavy clams & mussels with tightly closed shells.

This is a quick dish. The hardest part is scrubbing the shells prior to cooking.

You can serve up a big bowl and let your guests help themselves.

Just make sure that everyone gets at least one slice of the grilled bread. Dunking the bread in the sauce is my favorite bite.

Halibut and potato fish cakes
Halibut and potato fish cakes

My Mom made her fish cakes with baccala. If you don’t have time to soak dried salted cod for 3 days use fresh cod or halibut.

You can make the fish cakes ahead of time and heat them in the oven just before serving.

A bonus with the fish cakes, a recipe for grilled trumpet mushrooms and another for pickled carrots.

 

Mussels with a hot tomato sauce and twice-baked bread
Mussels with a hot tomato sauce and twice-baked bread

Mussels with a spicy tomato sauce is a real crowd-pleaser. This is my Dad’s recipe.

Some of my nephews insist that I make these mussels any time we’re together. My Dad always made them when they visited.

That was nearly a half-century ago. It warms my heart that I can revive those moments gone by.

Be sure to have extra twice-baked bread. Everyone wants more than one piece.

Primo Piatto (The First Course)

Dungeness Crab
Spaghetti with spicy Dungeness crab

It’s crab season in San Francisco. Dungeness crabs are always an important part of our holiday meal in the Bay Area.

They’re big and tender this year and the price isn’t bad either. Use your favorite crab if you can’t get dungeness.

Here’s a recipe with a spicy tomato sauce that doesn’t overwhelm the sweet tender Dungeness crab. A marriage made in heaven.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies

Spaghetti with onions and anchovies is a simple dish that packs intense flavor in every bite.

The nutty flavor of the whole wheat pasta really takes this dish over the top.

Be sure you get a quality imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta for this dish.

With a few ingredients the pasta has to be the star. No mushy hippie whole wheat pasta will do.

Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce
Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce

Strozzapreti and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce is beautiful to behold and an elegant addition to your holiday table.

Roast the peppers ahead to save you some cooking time on Christmas Eve.

You can make it in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

 

 

Another quick preparation for a busy night, spaghetti with clams.

Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples
Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples

A Neapolitan favorite, you can’t go wrong with this pasta.

Long strands of spaghetti with clams in a spicy garlic sauce. It’s a little bit of heaven.

Put on a big pot of well-salted water to boil. Steam the clams in the spicy broth while the pasta is cooking.

The clams will have opened and the sauce will be waiting as you pull the spaghetti out of the boiling water to finish cooking in the clam sauce.

 

Secondo Piatto (Main Course)

Petrale Sole in a Caper White Wine Butter Sauce
Petrale Sole in a Caper White Wine Butter Sauce

Sole is one of my favorite fish.

It’s easy to work with and has a delicate flavor.

Sole with capers is really easy. Saute the filets and make the sauce right in the same pan.

The delicate Petrale sole has a crispy crust with a moist flaky interior.

The capers perk up the sole. The light buttery sauce ties it all together.

 

Crispy quick-fried shrimp with a squeeze of lemon
Crispy quick-fried shrimp with a squeeze of lemon

 

Nothing easier and tastier than quick-cooked shrimp.

Shrimp on the east coast, prawns here in the Bay Area.

The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the shrimp.

Once that’s done the shrimp are ready in less than 10 minutes.

I take that back, the hardest part of this recipe is not eating them all up as they drain on paper towel.

To augment your main course choose from my collection of vegetable side dishes on my website or those in my Vegetable Recipes eBook. It’s my holiday gift.

Halibut roasted with cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives
Halibut roasted with cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives

But if you want your fish, veggies and starch all in one go make my halibut roasted in parchment is the one for you.

Use halibut, cod or your favorite fish.

The halibut is wrapped in parchment or foil with the potatoes, tomatoes and olives so you get it all.

Drizzle some olive oil and dry white wine over the fish and vegetables and when you open the pouch you have a  complete plate for your table. Quick, easy and oh so flavorful.

Dolci

Crispy cannoli shells with a sweet ricotta filling studded with chocolate and candied citrus
Crispy cannoli shells with a sweet ricotta filling studded with chocolate and candied citrus

For these holiday meals we often buy some of our favorite pastries to end the meal. If you have the time make cannoli.

But if you want something homemade and light make strufoli, little fried dough balls in a honey glaze sprinkled with colorful holiday confetti. Another traditional sweet is to end your meal on a traditional holiday note is cenci, those delicate bow-ties. Be careful, the powdered sugar doesn’t get on you.

Buon Natale! Buon Appetito!

 

 

Make A Perfect Antipasti Platter

It's easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!
It’s easy to make a lovely antipasti platter!

An antipasti platter is your culinary canvas. Lay out a couple of your favorite Italian cheeses and salumi (cured meats) that pair well together. Add some veggies for color. Olives maybe? And what about some taralli scattered all around?

A feast for the eyes but more importantly an icebreaker for those around your table. A little prosecco doesn’t hurt to get the conversations flowing. Let their eyes feast on your canvas for a short while.

It’s a set-up. The antipasti course is an important beginning to a leisurely 4-course Italian meal. Wake up the taste buds with a little something. A variety of tastes preview what’s to follow.

The one I made is a classic from my days in Jersey. Some variation of that platter started every holiday meal.

No time? Get everything you need at an Italian deli or well-stocked market. Then you just have to paint your canvas.

But if you want to add something homemade, make my quick olives marinated with orange, oregano and chili flakes. My roasted peppers are always a favorite. Invest a little more time and make my homemade giardiniera, still crunchy pickled vegetables.

Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss my upcoming porchetta episode. A real farm to table story about a sow from Chico and the beautiful spit-roasted porchetta devoured by a crowd on Russian Hill. Here’s a peek at the porchetta party.

Warning! Don’t fill up on the antipasti. You got a soup, pasta or risotto coming followed by the main course and dessert. Depending on who’s at my table sometimes I make individual plates for everybody so nobody eats too much right away.

Buon appetito!

Marinated Roasted Peppers
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Roasted peppers flavored with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2-3 red or yellow bell peppers (don't use green)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Roast the peppers right on the burner. Turn so that the skin is blackened all over.
  2. Put the blackened peppers in a covered bowl or paper bag to let them steam a bit.
  3. When the peppers are cool enough to handle cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and membranes, turn over and scrape off the blackened skin.
  4. Cut into 2-inch strips.
  5. Put the roasted peppers in a bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic and oregano and mix well.
  6. Let the peppers sit in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Serve at room temperature.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:123]

 

Cook and Eat a Whole Pig With Gianni

Pig diagram
Mmm…pork

We’re doing a special Christmas episode over here in Gianni-land ™ and we want you to be part of it!

Remember my classic recipe for porchetta? I made it the way I ate it growing up: Italian-American style! But I got flamed by a bunch of Italian Italians saying it wasn’t the real thing because I didn’t use a whole pig and the classic herb mix. So I’m going to channel some of the old country and revisit the recipe by cooking up a whole deboned pig, just like they do in Italy.

Yup, I’m gonna source a local, less than one-year old pig, debone it, stuff it with wild fennel, rosemary and garlic, and spit-roast it slowly over an open flame until it’s juicy delicious inside and covered with shatteringly crisp skin on the outside.

Actually, my choice of aromatic herbs is still up in the air. I may get in trouble again with those Italians. Right now I’m leaning towards combining the Roman style where rosemary predominates and the Umbrian style that uses fennel as the main aromatic. What do you think I should do?

And since we’ll have a lot of food, I’m inviting you to try some!

We will be shooting the episode on Sunday, December 7, 2014 at a private residence in San Francisco. We will provide the food, the drinks and the spectacle. You just have to provide the appetite! And it’s totally free! But space is extremely limited, so send in your request now by filling out the form below.

This will be an incredible event and I hope you can join me. I can’t wait!

Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil

"Smashed" potatoes flavored with roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil
“Smashed” potatoes flavored with roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil

This is part one of a 2 part Thanksgiving special. Stay tuned for part two next week.

Easy and delicious, mashed potatoes flavored with mellow roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil, pairs well with meat, fish or poultry.

My Mom didn’t call them mashed potatoes, she called them “smashed” potatoes and I still do. I like chunks of potato for that toothsome feel. But I like a smoother or whipped version of mashed potatoes too.

Make your mashed potatoes anyway you like them. Mash them more, whip them with a whisk or a hand beater, or put the hot potatoes through a ricer if you want a smoother or whipped consistency, then add the roasted garlic and olive oil.

Any way you make them just get them to your guests while they’re still piping hot. .

For Thanksgiving this year I’m serving with my smashed potatoes with a roasted boneless turkey breast stuffed with sauteed spinach and prosciutto that’s in and out of the oven in less than 90 minutes.

It’s a complete easy and quick dinner with protein, veggies and carbohydrates all on the plate.

We’ll publish the turkey episode next week so be sure to subscribe now.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Garlic & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Roughly mashed potatoes flavored with mellow roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Punch you spuds up a notch with this easy recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut the top off of the garlic bulb.
  3. Sprinkle olive oil on the top of the exposed cloves.
  4. Tightly wrap in aluminum foil and roast in the oven until the cloves are squeezably soft, about 30-40 minutes. Set the garlic aside to cool,
  5. Put the unpeeled potatoes in a pot. Cover with water an inch above the potatoes.
  6. Boil over high heat until the potatoes are knife tender.
  7. While the potatoes are cooking, squeeze the garlic in a pot with a sprinkle of sea salt and mash it into a paste with a fork. Add the milk and mix well.
  8. Put the pot over low heat. Stir to mix well. Warm the milk but don't let it boil or scald.
  9. Drain the potatoes. Peel them when they're cool enough to handle and put them in a bowl. Mash them with a potato masher and leave some small chunks of potato.
  10. Add the milk and garlic mixture, add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and mix everything well.
  11. Put the mashed potatoes in a serving bowl and sprinkle a good, finishing extra virgin olive oil on top.
  12. Serve hot.

 

Easter Recipe Roundup

Abbacchio: Easter spring lamb

Lent’s coming to an end. No more fasting soon, so I’m getting ready for my 4-course Italian-American Easter dinner celebration.

I’m bringing what’s available in the spring farmers market to our Easter feast.

For the antipasto I’m serving pizza rustica, a Neapolitan savory deep-dish ricotta pie with sausage, salami and fresh mozzarella. I’ll serve a slice of the pizza rustica with Giardiniera, marinated garden vegetables that I make a few days ahead so they reach their full flavor. Giardiniera will be a piquant foil for the savory pie.

My primo piatto, the first plate, is a light but full-flavored artichoke, leek and potato soup.

The secondo piatto, the second plate, is porchetta, a butterflied pork roast with an herb paste. The roast is accompanied by roasted potatoes dotted with truffle oil and cipollini agro dolce, onions in a sweet & sour glaze.

I’m bookending the meal with another Neapolitan Easter pie, pastiera, a sweet ricotta pie with wheat berries and candied citron.

Make the same dinner I’m making or change it up. Design your own Easter dinner. Choose from my selected dishes for each of the 4 courses. And if you just want to see the videos, check out this handy YouTube playlist.

 

Antipasti (before the meal)

Baked Baby Eggplant
Baked Baby Eggplant

Pair one of these dishes with your favorite Italian salumi, cheeses and olives.

Primo Piatto (first plate)

Soups

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

Rice

Risi bisi: Venetian Rice and Spring Peas
Risi bisi: Venetian Rice and Spring Peas

Pasta

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Secondo Piatto (second plate)

Porchetta
Porhcetta–Herb Filled Pork Roast

Contorni (Side Dishes)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Use one of the vegetables in the antipasti selections or make one of these to serve with the second piatto.

 

Dolci (dessert)

Tiramisu

Risi e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas

Don’t miss the next recipe video: Subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

Venetian Rice and Spring Peas
Risi e bisi is the perfect first course to celebrate early spring vegetables!

In the run-up to Ash Wednesday earlier this week Venetians ended their 12-day Carnevale celebration. It was their last raucous blow-out before the arrival of Lent and 40-days of fasting.

The traditional festivities and the arrival of the first of the spring vegetables in the market compelled me to make this simple yet elegant rice and spring pea Venetian classic. Wearing my Venetian Pulcinella mask in the kitchen didn’t hurt getting in the mood either.

Risi e bisi is best made early in the spring when the peas are small and sweet. You can make this dish with larger peas later in the season or frozen peas too but it’s at it’s best when those first shiny green pea pods first appear in the market. This is not a risotto it’s a very thick soup.

Vegetarians don’t miss out on this one. Just switch out the beef broth for vegetable broth. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee.

You can eat it with a fork but I prefer a spoon so I get some of the creamy broth in each bite. The slightly firm center of the Arborio rice lends just the right textural balance to the soft, sweet peas. The earthy beef broth adds remarkable flavor depth to the dish. A sprinkle of nutty grated parmigiano and the simple but complex risi e bisi is ready to start your eating celebration.

I love to have risi e bisi as a first course or as a side for fish and meats. And if you have any left over make my suppli al telefono, fried rice balls with a surprise in the center.

Before you go, have a listen to Wynton Marsalis’ Carnival of Venice. I hope you’re inspired. Buon appetito!

Riso e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds fresh unshelled peas
  • 3½ cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the butter and when melted add the onions and saute until the onions take on a light golden color.
  2. Add the peas and sea salt to taste and saute for 2 minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add 3½ cups of broth and cook at a rapid simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and parsley and stir. Cover the pot and cook at a rapid simmer until the rice is tender but still firm, about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. The rice and peas should still be a bit soupy. Add a bit more broth if necessary.
  5. Off the heat add the grated parmigiano and stir well into the rice and peas.
  6. Add a grind of black pepper and sea salt if necessary and stir well.
  7. Put the risi e bisi in individual bowls or a large serving bowl, top with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano.
  8. Pass additional grated parmigiano at the table in case your guests want a bit more.

 

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
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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.

White Bean & Tuna Salad

Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion
Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion

I love cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna. Putting these 2 pantry staples together in this salad makes me very happy.

You can use canned beans but since there are only 2 main ingredients in the salad I like to use dry beans. They aren’t mushy like the ones in the can and don’t break apart as you mix the salad together.

Soak the beans overnight. But, if you’re like me and didn’t plan ahead use my speedy method to prepare the dried beans for the salad in about 2 minutes.

The creamy beans infused with celery, onion and bay leaf are the perfect base for the briny tuna, sweet red onion and tangy olives. Every bite is a delight.

Serve the white bean and tuna salad as part of your antipasti platter or on a bed of lettuce as a light meal with a hunk of crusty bread.

Buon appetito!

White Bean & Tuna Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Combine 2 of my favorite ingredients, cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna, to create a full-flavored salad.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans
  • 1 celery stalk with top leaves, cut in large pieces
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 7-ounce can Sicilian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • ⅓ cup Gaeta olives
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Soak the beans in cold water to cover overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans
  3. (If you forgot to soak the beans overnight put the beans in a pot and cover with water at least 2 inches above the beans. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse and continue with the recipe. If you're really desperate use canned beans. Be sure to rinse them well.)
  4. Put the soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches and bring the pot to a boil.
  5. Add the celery, onion and bay leaf, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or longer until the beans are tender.
  6. While the beans are cooking, put the red onion in a large bowl and cover with the vinegar. Let the onions sit in the vinegar for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the olives to the bowl.
  8. When the beans are cooked add them to the bowl.
  9. Add the olive oil and parsley to bowl. Gently mix the beans to coat the beans with the olive oil.
  10. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix the beans gently.
  11. Break the tuna into small pieces and add the tuna to the bowl. Mix the beans gently to distribute the tuna.
  12. Let the salad sit for about an hour before serving.

 

Holidays in America

Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich. Photo by PBS.

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.

There are some great recipes on the site too. If you need more recipes for your own Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes try some of mine.

Buon Natale!

Is North Beach Shrinking?

Geppetto's Salumeria About to Open

I was worried about the south side of Vallejo Street between Columbus and Stockton. There was an even mix of Italian and Chinese stores on that block. Then Pulcinella Pizzeria closed and I heard that Victoria Pastry (est. 1914) on the corner was moving to Powell and Filbert near Washington Square. Would we have to cede that side of the street, no longer with any North Beach-oriented businesses? Thank God the answer is no.

As I reported last week, Tony Gemignani quickly scooped up the Pulcinella space where he will feature deep-dish pizza in his new Capos. The new owner of the Italian-French Bakery on Upper Grant is taking Victoria’s corner spot. He own’s the building.

I hope Italian-French reinvents itself in its new location. North Beach could use a really good panificio (bread bakery) that makes a selection of traditional breads found in Italy. OK, they can throw in a San Francisco sour dough every once in a while. Arthur Avenue, NYC’s Real Little Italy” boasts a half-dozen great bread bakeries and every family has their favorite. Why can’t North Beach have at least one? Will Italian-French step up and fill the need?

A new salumeria (Italian deli) will open across the street. The owner of Pinocchio on the corner will open Geppetto’s right next door, hopefully before Christmas. The equipment and furnishings are still crated and sitting in the front of the space ready to be installed. They’re working hard and I can see the place starting to come together.  I can’t wait to get a peek at what Giovanni Zocco will have to offer us. Stay tuned.

A Jersey Thanksgiving

3 Generations Cooking a Jersey Italian-American Thanksgiving Dinner

We’re all gathered in northern Jersey for our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner, 3 generations in the kitchen today. My sister Rose and her daughter Wendy are in charge, I’m just the sous chef. RoRo has been rocking in the kitchen since 7 this morning and barking out orders to us non-stop. There will be about 20 of us at the table at 4 this afternoon, not sure when we’ll be done.

Here’s the menu:

Antipasti

Platters with prosciutto, salami, mortadella, provolone, fresh mozzarella, smoked scamorza, Italian tuna in olive oil, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, giardiniera, marinated artichoke hearts, oil-cured and Sicilian green olives

Primo

Lasagna with layers of ricotta and mozzarella, meat sauce and parmigiano (Wendy’s recipe is below)

Secondo

Turkey, 2 different stuffings, roasted mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy, maple syrup candied sweet potatoes, homemade whole cranberry sauce and just in case there’s not enough a baked ham

Dolce

Desserts will be Italian ricotta cheesecake, strufoli (fried dough balls covered with honey and sprinkles), pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, lemon merangue and chocolate cream pie, roasted chestnuts and RoRo’s famous fresh fruit pedestal.

My vegan niece is at the table so we’re making sure that we have plenty of vegetables and other sides to accompany her tofurky.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:71]

NYC’s Real Little Italy

 

Waiting in Line Just to Get In to Shop

I’m interested in the health of Italian-American communities across the country so I travelled from Manhattan to the outer borough of the Bronx to check out a neighborhood I’ve heard about for a long time but never visited.

Arthur Avenue is a vibrant Italian community in the Belmont section of the Bronx. While lower Manhattan’s Little Italy has shrunk to a 2 1/2 block stage-set, Arthur Avenue is booming and as true to its Italian immigrant roots as ever.

The Italian population has dwindled and Belmont is much more diverse, but the core around Arthur Avenue and 187th Street is vibrant with dozens of delis, butcher shops, cheese stores, pasta places and bakeries galore.

There are still some long-time residents and their kids living here. Those who have moved away to the suburbs come back to shop. I was amazed to see long lines outside of the markets and bakeries waiting to get in to do their shopping.

If you’re hungry before you shop you can choose one of old-fashioned restaurants like Dominick’s where you sit at communal tables or Umberto’s Clam Bar, a transplant from lower Manhattan’s Little Italy. Roberto’s is more upscale and modern and it’s offshoot Zero Otto Nove, a new pizzeria/trattoria has been getting rave reviews in the New York City press, no minor accomplishment.

Now that you belly is full, grab an espresso at the bustling Caffe De Lillo and hit the markets and bakeries so you make a great meal at home.

Strong traditions abound in Belmont. Ask 5 people where to get the best bread or Italian pastries and you’ll get 5 different answers. Every family has their favorite. Want fresh mozzarella or burrata? You must go to Casa di Mozzarella. Need fresh pasta?  Only Borgotti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles will do. Don’t miss the indoor Retail Market, a bunch of different food stalls all under one roof that was spear-headed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. We bought great salumi and cheeses at Mike’s Deli to take back to Manhattan for dinner.

These places wrap your purchases in paper and tie it up with string. They total your order with a pencil on a brown paper bag. The merchants have been doing it this way for a hundred years.

Thank God things change slowly on Arthur Avenue — truly The Real Little Italy in New York City. Be sure you visit when you’re in the Big Apple. You won’t be disappointed.