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]

 

Turkey, Stuffing & Gravy the Italian-American Way

Roasted Turkey Infused with rosemary, sage, lemon & garlic resting
Roasted Turkey stuffed with aromatics resting

This year I’m making a roasted boneless turkey breast stuffed with spinach and prosciutto. But I’m thinking fondly of my whole succulent roasted turkey and stuffing. Did I make the wrong choice for my Thanksgiving table?

Nope, I’ve gotten over my ambivalence. I’m sticking with the stuffed turkey breast and roasted garlic & olive oil mashed potatoes. But if you want a whole roasted turkey, with a delicious sausage-chestnut stuffing and classic pan gravy, try my favorite recipes for all three.

The turkey is infused with rosemary, sage, garlic and lemon. The stuffing studded with sausage and chestnuts is a perfect flavorful partner for the moist and tender turkey. The easy pan gravy brings it all together.

Take advantage of that hot oven. Add my easy roasted brussels sprouts and your Thanksgiving plate is complete.

Make up your mind already. Which way will you go this Thanksgiving?

Either way make my pumpkin ricotta cheesecake the day before to top off your holiday festivities.

Buon appetito! Happy Thanksgiving!

Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing

Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto done in 90 minutes
Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto

This is part two of our Thanksgiving special. Check out part one here.

I’m not in the mood to roast a whole turkey this year so I came up with this easy tasty boneless breast roast that’s ready after about 90 minutes in a hot oven.

The flavor of the Diestel turkey is out of this world, so much better than those factory-raised frozen birds in the supermarket.

These off-the-grid organic turkeys from Sonora, in the Sierra foothills, get to range about the farm and eat only organic grains raised on the farm.

The breast meat is tender and full of mild flavor. My stuffing and roasting broth keep the breast moist while it roasts.

Make sure each bite has some of the crispy skin, tender breast meat and mellow spinach stuffing topped with salty prosciutto. You won’t be sorry.

Add a starch and your Thanksgiving dinner is ready to serve in less than 2 hours. That way you can linger over your morning coffee before getting ready for your guests.

Watch me make roasted garlic and olive oil mashed potatoes. Or how about roasted brussel sprouts or a green bean salad?

Make my easy pumpkin ricotta cheesecake the day before for a light dessert full of fall spice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Buon appetito!

Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A Thanksgiving dinner that you can cook in under 2 hours. You won't believe the complex flavor of the moist tender breast and the mellow spinach and salty prosciutto stuffing.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 4 Pound turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • 3 lemon slices
  • 4 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Over medium heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot.
  3. When the oil is hot saute the onions until they are translucent and tender.
  4. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and raise the heat to medium-high.
  5. Add as much of the spinach as you can to the pot and turn it to mix it with the onions and to help it all wilt. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  6. Add more spinach until all of it is wilted.
  7. Put the spinach in a bowl and mix in the grated parmigiano and set the spinach aside to cool.
  8. Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. (Save time. Ask your butcher to butterfly the breast for you.)
  9. Spread the spinach mixture across the breast, leaving a 1½ inch border all around.
  10. Put the prosciutto slices in a single layer over the spinach.
  11. Beginning at one end, firmly roll up the turkey breast and use 4 equally spaced kitchen lengths of kitchen twine to secure the roast well.
  12. In a casserole lay out the parsley, sage and lemon slices to form a bed for the roast.
  13. Rub a tablespoon of olive oil well all over.
  14. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper evenly over the roast.
  15. Pour in the white wine, water (or broth) into the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle olive oil over the liquid.
  16. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The temperature will rise to 160 degrees as it rests. (I'm using an off-the-grid organic turkey but if your roasting a supermarket turkey you may want to leave it in the oven longer, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.)
  17. Baste the roast with the pan juices several times during roasting. (Add more wine and water to maintain about an inch of liquid in the casserole.
  18. Remove the breast roll from the pan and loosely cover with foil.
  19. Pour the pan juices through a strainer into a pan. Skim off excess oil.
  20. Keep the pan gravy over very low heat to keep it warm.
  21. After the roast has rested for about 20 minutes, slice it thinly and arrange the spirals on a serving platter.
  22. Pour the pan gravy over the slices. (If you have more gravy, serve it at the table.)
  23. Serve immediately.

 

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.

 

Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad

Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad
Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad

A few days ago in a post on my pasta e fagioli video episode, Markus asked that I make panzanella, a simple Tuscan peasant summer salad.

I said I would when the summer tomatoes hit the farmers market. The first crop of Early Girls won’t be in for a few more weeks and the big heirlooms won’t be ready until the end of the summer. I thought I wouldn’t be making panzanella for a while.

But I couldn’t get panzanella out of my mind since Markus’ post. So when I saw a huge selection of tomatoes at Bruins Farms booth at the Ferry Building Farmers Market yesterday I had to buy some and give panzanella a go.

If you’ve been to Tuscany in the summer you’ve enjoyed panzanella. It’s made with days-old dark salt-free Tuscan bread. Recipes for this peasant dish date back to the days of Michelangelo according to Tuscan food maestro Giulliano Bugialli.

This is my modern San Francisco version. While you’ll see recipes with peppers, cucumbers and all sorts of other ingredients in today’s panzanella recipes, I keep it simple.

Tomatoes and a good crusty rustic bread soaked in the olive oil and tomato juices are the stars. My mix today is Lemon Boy, Black Zebra and Beefsteak.

These tomatoes are grown about 70 miles inland from San Francisco, in greenhouses on the farm a bit west of Sacramento where it’s sunnier and warmer than it is here in the City.

Panzanella only has a few ingredients so you have to make sure you’re using the best. These Bruins Farms tomatoes fit the bill and that makes it easier to wait for the big field-grown heirloom tomatoes later this summer.

Make panzanella with day-old rustic bread or switch it up and make it with taralli, those small boiled then baked crunchy rings. You can buy taralli in North Beach at Molinari Deli on Columbus or at A.G. Ferrari’s stores around the Bay Area or online.

The onion and basil round out the flavor of the sweet tomatoes and the juicy, creamy bread cubes perk up each mouthful with a lingering acidic vinegar tingle.

Serve panzanella chilled or at room temperature as an antipasto or as a side for grilled meats or poultry.

Find out more about New York City’s Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. If you’ve been disappointed with what’s left of Little Italy in lower Manhattan visit Arthur Avenue. You’ll find everything you’re looking for.

Buon appetito!

Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A peasant Tuscan ripe summer tomatoes, basil and day-old bread moistened by the best extra virgin olive oil and tomato juices.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 3 thick slices of day-old rustic bread
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the tomatoes into 2-inch cubes and put them in a large bowl.
  2. Quarter the onion and slice each quarter very thin and put them in the bowl.
  3. Rip each basil leaf into large pieces and add them to the bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and mix all the ingredients well. Set the bowl aside. (The salt will start to draw the juices out of the tomatoes.)
  5. Cut the bread into 2-inch cubes and put them into the bowl with the tomatoes. (Remove the crust if you want but I leave it on to add more texture to the salad.)
  6. Let the salad sit for an hour or so on the counter or in the refrigerator to develop the juices that will be absorbed by the bread.
  7. Mix the salad well before serving.
  8. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

Warm Italian Potato Salad

Creamy red & gold potatoes bathed with buttery olive oil and mellow red wine vinegar
Creamy red & gold potatoes bathed with buttery olive oil and mellow red wine vinegar

Here’s a twist on potato salad that I’ve loved since I was a kid.

Don’t get me wrong I love potato salad with mayonnaise but every once in a while I have to make this one flavored with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

It’s simple to make and really flavorful. Cube boiled potatoes while they’re still warm. Add chopped parsley and onions, a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper, and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. That’s it.

Creamy potatoes bathed in buttery olive oil, the sweet crunch of onion, all balanced by the red wine vinegar. A simple peasant dish with full and complex flavor.

Serve the potato salad warm or at room temperature. Perfect for any table, inside or out.

Buon appetito!

Italian Potato Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple potato salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar served warm to enjoy it's full flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound small red or Yukon Gold potato (or use both as I do for color & texture variation)
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ½ small yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until they are knife tender.
  2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle cut them into 2-inch cubes.
  3. Put the potatoes in a bowl along with the other ingredients and mix well to coat the potatoes completely.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Torta Pasqualina: Easter Greens & Ricotta Cake

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

Torta Pasqualina
Celebrate the end of Lent with torta Pasqualina, a savory Easter cake.

Easter is a relaxed holiday. There’s a saying “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” Christmas with your family. Easter with whomever you like. In Italy the Easter celebration spills over to Monday, called La Pasquetta, when Italians like to eat al fresco or go on a picnic.

Torta Pasqualina, Easter cake, is traditionally served as an antipasto on the Easter table. Torta Pasqualina is best at room temperature so it’s good to go for your picnic too.

The torta includes traditional symbolic Easter foods. Before modern production, eggs were costly and only available this time of year so eggs and tender leafy greens are a reminder of spring awakening.

The dough for the crust is fun to make. It’s pliable enough so that you can stretch it and roll it out really thin. If making dough doesn’t sound like fun to you, use puff pastry instead.

Chard and baby spinach sautéed with onion in olive oil and brightened by fresh marjoram forms the first layer. Ricotta whipped light and fluffy with egg and parmigiano creates the second layer topped with a golden phyllo-like crust.

Spring lamb, “the Lamb of God” in all those Renaissance paintings, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. So baby spring lamb is another traditional Easter food. If you’re looking for an Easter main course check out my abbacchio video, baby spring lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic served with golden potato wedges. And if you want help with the other courses, check out my Easter recipe roundup.

Buona Pasqua! Buon Appetito!

 

Torta Pasqualina: Easter Chard & Ricotta Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
Crust
  • 2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ cups water
Filling
  • 1 pound swiss chard
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 bunch of spring onions (or half an onion)
  • 1 pound ricotta, drained
  • ½ cup grated parmigiana
  • 9 eggs
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • sea salt freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Crust
  1. You want to end up with 4 sheets, 2 for the base of a 10" inch spring form pan and 2 for the top crust.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
  3. Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
  4. Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
  5. When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  6. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Filling-Greens
  1. Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
  2. When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
  3. Roughly chop the greens.
  4. Chop the onion.
  5. Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
  6. When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
  7. Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
  8. Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
  9. Put the ricotta in another bowl. Beat 3 eggs and add them to the ricotta along ¼ cup grated parmigiano, parsley, nutmeg (which I forgot to add in the video) and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together so that the ricotta mixture is well blended and fluffy.
Assembly
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Divide the dough in 4, roll 2 larger dough pieces (about 10 oz. each) to a thin sheet about a 13-inch diameter and the smaller balls (about 7 oz.) and roll out to to a thin sheet about 10-inches.
  3. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
  4. Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
  5. Brush the pastry all over with oil.
  6. Put the second pastry sheet, put it on top of the first sheet and pat it so that the second sheet adheres to the first.
  7. Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
  8. Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
  9. Make an indentation with the back of the spoon in the center and then 5 indentations spread evenly mid-way between the center and the edge of the pan.
  10. Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
  11. Lightly beat the egg whites and spread a thin layer of the whites on top of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle grated parmigiano all over.
  12. Completely cover the top the ricotta layer with one of the smaller sheets. Press it to adhere to the side crust and brush it with olive oil.
  13. Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
  14. Cut off any dough that hangs over the side of the baking pan. Roll down the remaining dough on the sides, crimp with your fingers to form the edge of the crust an the circumference of the cake. Gently depress the edge with a fork to create a pretty top edge.
  15. Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
  16. Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Baby Artichokes: Eat the Whole Thing

Crispy baby artichokes
Crispy baby artichokes

Baby artichokes are in the market at a very attractive price. I bought some to create a crispy delight.

Be sure to buy plenty. This is another one of those treats that gets poached off the stove by family and friends before the baby artichokes even make it to the table.

Baby artichokes are super easy to clean and cook. Best of all you can eat the whole thing. There’s no prickly choke to get rid of.

Crispy golden-brown leaves add a nutty note to the creamy artichoke heart. A simple way to savor the essence of the artichoke without breaking a sweat.

Serve the baby artichokes as part of an antipasto course or as a side for meat or poultry.

Want more? Watch me make stuffed artichokes in the style of the ghetto in Rome.

Buon appetito!

Baby Artichokes: Eat the Whole Thing
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Enjoy baby artichokes in way less than 30 minutes.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
Instructions
  1. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a bowl of water.
  2. Cut off the discolored bottom of the stem. Trim any dark green skin from the bottom of the stem.
  3. Pull off the dark outer leaves until the tender yellow and pale green leaves appear.
  4. Cut off the tip of the artichoke at the line separating the dark from the pale part of the leaf.
  5. Put the cleaned artichoke in the acidulated water.
  6. Put on a pot of water to boil over high heat. Cook the artichokes until knife tender.
  7. When cool enough to handle, cut the artichokes in half length-wise.
  8. Put the olive oil in a cast iron or saute pan. When the oil starts to ripple cook the artichokes flat side down until golden brown.
  9. Remove the artichokes to a serving plate crispy flat side up and sprinkle with sea salt with some lemon wedges scattered around.
  10. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

 

Pasta Primavera: Bow tie pasta with early spring vegetables

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

Pasta Primavera
Pasta primavera is spring on a plate.

I love this time of year when the first of the early spring vegetables start to hit the market. Pencil-thin asparagus, tiny peas, and tender fava beans are among my favorites, so I just had to make pasta primavera with these spring farmers’ market beauties.

But the nice thing about pasta primavera is that it’s versatile enough to work well with all kinds of produce. Asparagus not looking so good? Use artichokes instead! Are those gorgeous ramps on sale this week? Use those! Just pick whatever’s fresh and delicious in your market and you can’t go wrong.

This dish is inspired by the original Spaghetti alla Primavera from Sirio Maccioni, co-owner of Le Cirque restaurant in New York City–it’s a real Italian-American classic. I’ve lightened the dish up by using no butter and less cream, and this keeps the spring vegetables in sharp focus. Instead, pasta water creates a flavorful broth as the base of the sauce and bow tie pasta instead of spaghetti guarantees you get some veggies with every bite.

I prefer the more robust ricotta salata flavor instead of parmigiano as a finishing note, but different strokes, right? And extra virgin olive oil does put some fat back into this really healthy, full-flavored taste of springtime, I’ll give you that, but come on, a little ain’t gonna kill ya.

I made farfalle alla primavera a few years ago at my cooking demonstration and tasting at The Villages in San Jose. I was cooking for 50 Italian-Americans and wannabes and I needed a boat-load of vegetables, so while setting up for the show I enlisted a dozen of my students to shell the peas and fava beans and cut the asparagus. When all the work was done, one of my prep helpers said “Next time use frozen!” Well, of course you can, but it won’t be as good as using fresh from the farmer’s market–the extra work means extra flavor and who don’t want that?

The full flavor of the spring vegetables rule this simple, uncluttered pasta dish that is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta.  After you shell the peas and fava that is. Just make sure none of your helpers throw them pea pods at ya.

And if you like this, also try my recipe for spring asparagus frittata. It’s another great way to get spring on a plate.

Buon appetito!

Pasta Primavera: Bow Tie Pasta with Early Spring Vegetables
 
Bow tie pasta with fresh spring peas, lava beans and asparagus in a light cream sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fava beans
  • 1 pound or 500 grams Farfalle dried pasta
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 8 thin asparagus spears, cut on a bias in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas
  • 10 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 5 basil leaves, ripped by hand
  • ¼ cup grated ricotta salata or grated parmigiano
  • sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and finishing olive oil to taste
Instructions
  1. Remove the fava beans from the pod and blanch them in the hot pasta water for a minute or two. Take the fava beans out of the water and when cool remove the wrinkled skin from the fava.
  2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat.
  3. Add the farfalle to the boiling water and cook until just al dente.
  4. In the meantime, put a large saute pan over medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and add the garlic.
  5. When the garlic starts to give off its aroma add the spring onion.
  6. When the onion is translucent, add the asparagus and fava beans sprinkle with sea salt and sauté for a minute or two until the asparagus takes on a deeper green color.
  7. Add a cup of the pasta water to the sauté pan and cover the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the asparagus and fava are tender.
  8. Add the peas and cherry tomatoes, another cup of pasta water and cook until the peas and tomatoes are wrinkled, for a minute or two more.
  9. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the cream and mix well. Cook to reduce and thicken the sauce.
  10. Drain the farfalle when just al dente and put them in the pan. Stir the farfalle well with the primavera sauce. (Add more pasta water if the sauce is too dense.)
  11. Stir in the basil.
  12. Off the heat add a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and the grated cheese.
  13. Drizzle the farfalle with your finishing extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

 

Spring Asparagus Frittata

Spring Asparagus Frittata

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

Spring Asparagus Frittata
Pencil-thin asparagus is just barely held together by egg in this spring frittata.

I made this asparagus frittata last spring while in Rome. Allesandro, my friend and produce vendor in Campo de Fiori, the huge open air produce market in the historical center of Rome, showed me wild asparagus he had foraged the night before. It took him all night to collect 2 kilos.

That’s Allesandro in video episode showing me those skinny wild asparagus that quickly went into a frittata for my mates back in our apartment near Piazza di Spagna.

I found some really thin asparagus at the farmers market. They reminded me of the frittata I made in Rome and I had to make it here in San Francisco.

I roasted the asparagus with olive oil and sea salt to intensify its bright flavor. This is a thinner frittata than I usually make because I want the egg mixture to just hold the asparagus together and let the concentrated springtime flavor shine.

Watch me make a sausage and potato frittata and see another asparagus frittata recipe where I don’t roast the asparagus but cook it in the same pan that I use to cook the frittata.

Serve frittata as a part of your antipasti or as a light lunch or dinner with a salad and a hunk of crusty bread. When I’m not in the mood to cook frittata is my go to recipe. It’s ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. Buon appetito!

Asparagus Fritatta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 8-10 asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino, parmigiana or grana padano
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the asparagus on a cooking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Toss the asparagus to cover them all with the oil.
  3. Roast in the oven until the asparagus begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn them at least once.
  4. Take the asparagus out of the oven and when cool cut them on the diagonal in 2-inch pieces. Set the asparagus aside.
  5. Add the eggs to a large bowl and beat them well.
  6. Add the asparagus, parsley, grated cheese, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Put a 9-inch cast-iron or saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Swirl the olive oil so it coats the sides of the pan well to avoid the sides of the frittata from sticking.
  8. When the oil starts to ripple the add the egg mixture to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  9. As the frittata begins to set stir the bottom of the frittata with a fork. With a spatula lightly pull the edge of frittata away from the side of the pan. Genly slide the spatula under the frittata. Be sure the frittata is loose and moves easily when you shake the pan.
  10. Place a plate over the pan and flip the pan so the frittata ends up on the plate.
  11. Slide the frittata back in the pan.
  12. Finish cooking the frittata until it is solid.
  13. (If you don’t want the flip the frittata, finish cooking it in a 375 degree oven until the top sets and browns.)
  14. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate and serve immediately or at room temperature.

 

Cardi Fritti: Fried Cardoons

Crunchy fried cardoons that taste like its artichoke cousin.
Crunchy fried cardoons that taste like its artichoke cousin

In the spring when I was a kid in Jersey I went foraging for cardoons with my Uncle Frank in the “wild” West Orange hills. He married Aunt Florence, my Mom’s sister, and they lived downstairs from us.

Uncle Frank was born in Calabria and didn’t speak much English but he knew how to forage and I loved trapezing through the woods with him.

Back home with our cardoons, Aunt Flo fried them until golden. I’d always steal one hot out of the oil and I’d always burn the roof of my mouth as I scarfed it down.

I don’t see cardoons in the market often but when I do I grab some. I found these at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The guy I bought mine from said nobody buys his cardoons but chefs. “Nobody knows what to do with them,” he said.

Don’t be afraid of cardoons. Now you can be in on a culinary secret ingredient that I grew up with. Cardoons can be scary looking but they’re really easy to cook up once you know how. Here’s how my Aunt Florence did it.

Blanch the cleaned cardoons and bread them after a dip in egg wash. Fry them until golden all over. Give the cardi fritti a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt and you’ll be in for a rare treat.

Cardoons are cousins of the artichoke and that’s the flavor you bite into after you get through the crunchy exterior of my cardi fritti.

Serve cardi fritti as part of your antipasti or as a side with meat or chicken.

Oh, and those SF chefs  who buy up all the cardoons at the farmers market, here’s Aziza’s Mourad Lahlou’s cardoon salad recipe. So what if it’s not Italian. It’s delicious.

Buon appetito!

Cardi Fritti: Fried Cardoons
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Cardoons taste like their artichoke cousin. They're easy to prepare once you know how.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cardoons
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • canola oil
Instructions
  1. Put on a pot of water to boil.
  2. Cut off the leaves on the cardoon so you're left with only a clean stalk.
  3. Trim both ends of the cardoon.
  4. Pull off the tough strings or remove them with a veggie peeler.
  5. Cut each stalk into 4-inch lengths.
  6. Put the cardoons in the boiling water and cook until tender.
  7. Drain the cardoons and set aside to cool.
  8. Put the eggs, parsley, grated cheese and sea salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl and beat well.
  9. When the cardoons are cool tear the larger cardoons strips in half.
  10. Dredge the strips in the flour and coat well, put the strips in the eggwash and then in the breadcrumbs. (Some of the strips will stick together to form "patties" and some will be single stalks.)
  11. Put a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pan over high-heat and add an inch of the oils (half olive/half canola) .
  12. When the oil ripples lower the heat to medium and fry the breaded cardoons until golden on both sides.
  13. Drain on paper towel.
  14. Serve immediately with a light squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt.

 

 

 

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.

 

Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew

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

Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.
Stufato di Manzo is perfect for cold winter nights.

Beef stew was my favorite lunch when I trudged home from elementary school on a cold wet winter’s day. I liked to squash all of the tender ingredients together to form a shepherd’s pie mash-up on my plate that I scooped up with a spoon.

Not so many cold wet days here in the Bay Area during the California drought but I’m making this comforting stew anyway. It’s still one of my favorite dishes. I like to make sure that I have some left over because it is a tasty and quick dish to heat up after a long day when I don’t have the energy to cook.

The beef adds deep flavor to the stew but to be honest I’m in it for the most flavorful ingredients, the vegetables.

You may have noticed that many of my recipes reflect my tendency to eat more vegetables and less meat. Often meat is a flavor agent in the dish not the star. The beef stew is a good example. If you have a paleo at the table just pile that dish up with lots of meat.

Food writer and cook Mark Bittman recently shared his thoughts about more vegetables, less meat in his NY Times article.

Bittman seems to have stirred to pot so to speak with his ribollita recipe, the humble but classic Tuscan vegetable soup.

If you want the real deal, check out my ribollita recipe that I learned from Stefania at North Beach’s fantastic BaoNecci on Green. Her ribollita goes back 5 generations in her northern Tuscany family.

If you don’t have the 2 days to make ribollita stop at Day 1 and enjoy a wonderful healthy minestrone.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Stufato di Manzo: Italian Beef & Vegetable Stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Italian beef and vegetable stew
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound beef chuck, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 2 celery stalks, cut half and then in 2-inch slices
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in small cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs Italian parsley, 3 on the stem and roughly chop just the leaves from one
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (I misspoke in the video and said 3 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 cups water
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Trim excess fat from the beef. Cut in 2 inch cubes. Season with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lightly dust the beef with flour.
  2. Quarter the carrots and potatoes then cut them into in ½ inch slices. Cut the celery stalk in half and cut into pieces the same size as the carrots and potatoes.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons of EVOO in an enamel or heavy-bottomed pot. Put the pot over a high flame until the oil starts to ripple then lower the heat to medium-high.
  4. When the oil is rippling add the beef. Cook the beef and let the beef develop a dark brown crust on all sides. (A fond will form on the bottom of the pot. Those brown bits will eventually melt into the braising sauce and add flavor. Lower the flame if necessary or add a little water so the fond doesn't burn.)
  5. Add another tablespoon EVOO if there is not enough fat in the pot to brown the vegetables.
  6. Add the vegetables and bay leaf to the pot.
  7. Stir the vegetables to coat well with the oil and cook until they pick up some brown color.
  8. When the vegetables are done clear a small spot on the bottom of the pan. Make sure it has a coating of oil adding some if necessary.
  9. Add the tomato paste to the hot spot and cook the tomato paste until it darkens. Stir to coat all of the vegetables with the paste.
  10. To braise add enough water to just cover the stew. Be sure to scrape up (deglaze) all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. (You can use stock but I don't think the dish really needs it. You can deglaze the bottom of the pot with ¼ cup dry red wine to add another layer of flavor. Just cook off most of the wine before adding the braising liquid.)
  11. Add 3 stems of parsley and stir into the stew.
  12. Cover the pot and simmer the stew for about 60 minutes.
  13. Stir the stew occasionally to ensure it does not burn on the bottom.
  14. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. The stew should be just lightly bubbling at the edge of the pot.
  15. Put the lid ajar atop the pot if the stew is not thick enough and simmer for 30 minutes more.
  16. Braise until the beef flakes when speared with a fork and the vegetables are knife tender.
  17. Spoon the stew into a bowl and sprinkle a bit of finishing EVOO on top and chopped parsley for color.
  18. Serve immediately.

 

Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

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

Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

Baked Italian baby eggplant is a favorite blog text recipe post so we decided to show you how to make it. Let me know if there are other recipe posts or other Italian dishes you want me to cook and maybe we’ll add them to our upcoming video episode list.

We’re in the worst drought ever here in California.

My produce guys tell me prices are already on the rise because of the drought. 60% of America’s produce comes from California so we’ll all be paying 15-20% more.

Even as prices rise, keep on buying local organic produce. The quality of the ingredients is vital. There are only 4 key ingredients in this dish so they all have to shine.

The only two days of heavy rain this whole winter had to be when I’m out food shopping over the weekend for the 3 episodes shot on Monday. I know we need the rain but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain.

I was a man on a mission. Off I went to the Ferry Building Saturday farmer’s market in the rain. No Italian baby eggplant. I hit at least six other markets and baby Italian eggplant were nowhere to be found. All I got was wet.

I panicked. I needed eggplant for Monday’s shoot. While scouring the city I caught a glimpse of dark eggplant on a sidewalk stand as the bus passed Grant Street in Chinatown. I made my way back to the produce stand and there I found not the Italian baby eggplant I desperately needed but Japanese eggplant instead.

I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

I was about to pass them up when I said to myself “Hey, you got a show to shoot. Whaddaya gonna do? Buy these. Stupido! This happens to other people too, so it’s an improvisation lesson.”

After chasing all over the city, I had developed a “woolie” (a craving) for these baked eggplant. I had to make them.

So that’s why I’m using Japanese eggplant that are readily available in the market. If you can’t get the Italian baby eggplant, use the Japanese.

The taste and texture is as good as baking the small black-purple Italian ones. But if I find them in market, I go for the baby Italians every time.

Zesty crispy tomato and pecorino top sweet creamy soft eggplant inside the flavorful shriveled skin. The essence of eggplant in every single bite. Serve it by itself or as the centerpiece of an antipasti course. Just add some prosciutto & cheese to the platter and some olives too.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili

Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan black kale will make you want to devour your veggies!

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

I love leafy vegetables cooked using this easy steam/saute method. You can have delicious and healthy vegetables on your table in about 15 minutes.

Heat up olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a big pan. Throw in the leafy greens and coat them all with the oil. Add a little water and bring it to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan.

In a few minutes take off the lid and let the water evaporate. Saute the wilted greens in the garlic-infused oil until they’re tender.

All of the healthy vegetable goodness stays in the pan and the perfectly cooked tender greens flecked with garlic and chili flake glisten in the sheen of the olive oil.

Choose your favorite leafy vegetable, chard, brocolli rabe, escarole. But don’t be limited to greens. The steam/saute method works with most vegetables.

I cooked a vegetable with many names. Black kale because of its color. Dino(saur) kale because of the large leaf’s rough surface. Tuscan kale from the region in Italy where it is a favored ingredient for ribollita, the famous Tuscan twice boiled soup.

Call it what you want. Just make some soon. It’s vegan, Mediterranean, and if you leave out the bread, it’s even paleo!

The intense slightly bitter kale flavor is mellowed by the buttery olive oil. The heat of the chili flake warms your throat with each swallow.

Eat a bowl of kale as a light lunch or serve it as a side for your main course. Have a hunk of crusty bread handy to sop up the sauce that’s left on the plate.

Italians eat fantastic food but the Mediterranean Diet, most prominent in southern Italy, is healthy as well. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits locally grown and in season, legumes, nuts and grains. I love fish. Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice. I eat meat in moderation and sweets from time to time.

My meals are delicious and nutritious. Yours can be too.

So eat your vegetables! Roast some sausage to serve with steam/sauteed broccoli rabe for a complete meal. Or for something entirely different make a green bean and red onion salad.

Gianni’s Tip: I removed the thick tough stem at the base of each kale leaf. I saved the stems as I do with all my vegetable trimmings. Set the trimmings aside and throw them in the pot the next time you make a broth or soup for extra flavor. If you don’t use the trimmings immediately, just bag them and put them in the freezer for later.

Use it all up. Head towards zero waste in your kitchen. You’ll be happy and the planet will be too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of kale (look for "Lacinato" on the tag) or your favorite leafy vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Wash the kale well.
  2. Cut out the tough stem as the bottom of each leaf.
  3. Cut the kale into 2 inch ribbons.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the kale and sea salt to taste.
  6. Pour in the water, bring to a rapid simmer, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  7. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.