Pasta Primavera: Bowtie Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Farfalle with Early Spring Vegetables

The farmers markets are overflowing with early spring vegetables so I just had to make Pasta Primavera, farfalle (bowtie) pasta with just-arrived asparagus, fava beans and sweet peas.

Pasta Primavera is a classic Italian-American dish concocted by Sirio Maccioni and made famous at his Le Cirque restaurant in New York City in the 70s.

I adapted the classic recipe to lighten up the cheesy sauce. Sirio used spaghetti but today I chose farfalle to ensure that every forkful has some pasta and vegetables for a full flavor explosion in every bite.

This is a glorious bowl of springtime. The sweet fresh vegetables are bathed in the light cream sauce and their fresh taste shines through. The farfalle absorb the sauce full of spring vegetable flavor. The ricotta salata grated on top ties the dish together and kicks it up a notch.

I had an ulterior motive for cooking up the dish today. I’m making Pasta Primavera at a demonstration and tasting for 50 San Jose fans later this week. I wanted to make sure I still had it right this season.

Here’s the Farfalle with Spring Vegetables recipe just in case you get inspired at the market. Use my spring veggie trio or use whatever spring vegetables turn you on. Just don’t use more than 3 vegetables or the flavors will get muddled.

You can make the primavera sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito.


Gianni Hosts a North Beach Antipasti Party?

Gianni's Antipasti Platter

The other night my Emerald Tablet friends and I put together a tasty family-style dinner at North Beach’s Vicoletto, the Calabrian restaurant on Green.  We were talking about a Gianni’s North Beach cooking demonstration and tasting at their gallery and creative learning space. They don’t have a full kitchen so it would be a challenge.

Then it hit me. When I’m in Bologna I always stop at least once in at an enoteca (wine bar} for a plate of assorted Italian cured meats and cheeses. Your group huddles around a high table and nibbles on a plate full of distinctive tastes and textures. I pair Prosecco or a sparkling rose with this spuntino (little snack) that will tide us over until dinner much later in the evening.

A Bologna Salumeria

We decided it would be fun to make believe we’re in Emilia-Romagna. We could host a salumi and cheese tasting with wine pairings at the gallery. I’ll source all of the meats, cheeses and wines right here in North Beach and demonstrate how to make some of my antipasti treats.

I’m excited about Bay Area artisan salumi and cheeses. We’ll taste the best of Italia and America. Will the local products stand up to their Italian cousins? Gianni’s North Beach most popular antipasti treats–vinegar peppers, giardiniera, and celery mostarda (chutney) pictured above–or other Gianni goodies will be on the antipasti platter. Maybe I’ll make my toy-box tomato focaccia too.

Learn where to buy the best in the Village. See how easy it is to put together a spectacular antipasti platter at home for a cocktail party or as the first-course for a home-cooked meal. Watch me make a few of my most popular antipasti dishes and take some with you to enjoy at home. Once you’ve tasted them, with my easy recipes you’ll be able to make them for yourself.

Let me know if this is an event that you’d attend. If there’s enough interest we’ll set a date at North Beach’s Emerald Tablet. As a bonus you’ll see the restored Song of Pulcinella mural there.


Join Gianni for a Culinary Tour of Emilia-Romagna

Bologna Produce Stall

The crowds have thinned and the September weather is glorious. The markets overflow. It’s one of my favorite seasons to visit Italia.

It’s a fine time to settle into the region of Emilia-Romagna the culinary heart of Italia. Prosciutto and parmigiano come from Parma and Reggio. Balsamic vinegar has been made in Modena for centuries. Bologna’s fabulous food has earned it the nickname “La Grassa” (The Fat One).

Join me for a fabulous 8-day culinary tour September 23-30, 2012. We’ll pick you up at the Bologna airport and then take care of all the details so that you can just enjoy your culinary adventure in Italia. We start on the Adriatic coast and make our way to Bologna at a leisurely pace.

  • Learn pasta-making from a real Sfoglina, a dying breed of dedicated pasta wizards
  • Hunt wild mushrooms in the Apennine foothills
  • Explore medieval villages and lesser-known food markets
  • Taste parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto di parma and balsamic vinegar where they’re made
  • Join home cooks and chefs for cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes featuring classic Emilia-Romagna dishes
  • Savor the food at unique and inspired restaurants

My travel partner Vanessa DellaPasqua of Global Epicurean and I will be your hosts and your guides. Join us for a journey that will heighten your appreciation and deepen your understanding of Italy’s food culture. You’ll meet a bunch of wonderful Italians too. They’ll share their culinary wisdom and kitchen secrets with you.

Get all of the Emilia-Romagna culinary adventure details. The tour is limited to 24 people. It will be like family.

Cook with Gianni Live in North Beach

Cooking Class at Cookhouse

My friend Chef Tom Herndon of Hipp Kitchen asked if I wanted to do a cooking class showcasing the rustic food of Italia. Tom teaches those with food allergies and sensitivities so I’m cooking without gluten, dairy, shellfish, soy or peanuts. We’re making a typical 4-course Italian meal at Cookhouse in North Beach.

The meal includes a selection my favorite classic dishes from several regions of Italia. I’m using the best local ingredients in season and simple preparations. You’ve seen me cooking some of these dishes in my kitchen and you’ve made others from my free recipes. Here’s your chance to cook them with me in a great kitchen.

We’ll cook in small groups and eat what we cook together at a big communal table. This is a hands-on class. Come ready to cook and ready to eat. Seats are filling up fast. Sign up for the March 24 class. Just email Chef Tom

Here’s what’s on the menu.

Antipasti (Before the Meal)

Brocoli rabe. Sauteed in EVOO with garlic and peperoncini. (Calabria)
Carciofi fritti. Baby aritchokes fried in EVOO and topped with a sprinkle of fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon. (Lazio)
Caponata. Spicy eggplant salad with tomato, onions, celery and capers. (Sicily)
Fra’Mani salumi. (USA)

Primo Piatto (First Course)

Spaghetti aglio e olio. Corn dried pasta imported from Italia with an anchovy, garlic, EVOO, peperoncini and walnut sauce.

Secondo Piatto (Second Course)

Porchetta. Pork loin roast stuffed with an herb paste.
Cipollini agro dolce. Cipollini onions in a sweet/sour sauce.
Potatoes roasted with rosemary and truffle oil.

Dolce (Dessert)

Macedonia. Apple, pear salad marinated with Prosecco and Italian chestnut honey.


Gianni’s First Live Demo – Success!

On Saturday, we did our first live cooking demonstration with 12 folks in my small apartment. Strangers were brought together by the allure of The Village and its Italian food, braving the rainy day to reach the top of The Hill: A couple from San Carlos; a few emissaries from The Mission; a young couple new to The Village; a personal chef from Brazil; a few old-timers; and a former resident jonesing for a return to North Beach.

It was a fun bunch of guests.

Gianni's Free Cooking Demo
Diggin' in!

For one guest, it was a surprise Christmas present. North Beach resident, Jeff, brought his wife, Karla into my place without telling her why. You should have seen the look on her face when she peered into the kitchen and saw me: “Oh my God!”

Call MasterCard, ’cause that moment was priceless.

And thank God for everyone’s help during the demo. Mary tended the red bell pepper we were charring on top of the stove. Dan did a nice job bringing the cream for the gorgonzola sauce to the proper texture.

Gianni's Free Cooking Class
Dan Stirs

Half the group had roots in Sicilia and shared stories of their families. Good thing one of the pasta sauces I was making was from that exquisite island. Old friends Marie and Stephanie remembered details of our trips to Italy and many meals at my table. Marco offered to cook us a seafood meal from his village on an island off Brazil.

In addition to an antipasti platter with cheese and salumi, I prepared:

  • String beans in a tomato sauce
  • Steamed broccoli the way my family likes it. Simple but delicious
  • Baby Italian eggplant in the oven (melanzane al forno)
  • Red bell peppers charred on top of the stove and marinated
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Sauteed broccoli rabe

Later I made 3 quick sauces served with choke the priest pasta–strozzapreti

  • Pesto trapanese (Sicily)
  • Gorgonzola e crema (Northern Italy)
  • San Marzano tomato, garlic and oregano sugo (Campania)

For wines:

  • Feudi di San Gregorio Lacryma Christi Bianco from near my mother’s birth village in Campania
  • Terradora Di Paolo Aglianico, a medium-bodied red from the noble Campania grape

Three and a half hours after we started we ran out of wine. The group decided to walk off some of our meal. We ambled down Macondray Lane to bug Ron and Mike at Little City Meats. Mike told us that the Christmas sausage was a Sicilian base with aged provolone and basil added. A really rich and delicious concoction. Dan bought a bunch to add to his luncheon the next day. Karla had just roasted the porchetta she bought there (after explaining to Mike she wanted it “butterflied like a HoHo” – ha!). Jeff grabbed a gallon of the Ciuti EVOO just in from Sicily.

Gianni's Free Cooking Class
Bugging the guys at Little City

As we were gathered under the awning saying our goodbyes and Buon Natale! all around, we heard “Gianni! – from the internet!” A couple and their son Massimo (great name) in from Napa. They were shut out of the demo (sorry) but came into Little City anyway. Gonna have to start wearing sunglasses when I go down to The Village.

Grazie, everyone who came out, and for those of you we couldn’t squeeze into my apartment, I hope you’ll come out to the next demonstration, which will happen soon, I promise!

PS: My first cooking e-book is in production, with the six recipes from the demo plus four more. Stay tuned!