5-Minute Basil Pesto

Gemelli with 5-Minute Basil Pesto
Gemelli with 5-Minute Basil Pesto

Got 5 minutes? You can be eating pasta with fresh and flavorful basil pesto, pesto alla Genovese, in no time.

This pesto hails from Liguria on the northern Italian coast where small leaf basil grows on the hills around Genoa overlooking the Italian Riviera. The roots of North Beach’s Liguria Bakery, famous for it’s foccacia, are in this region of Italy.

I don’t have Ligurian basil so I’m using organic Bay Area basil instead. You can use your local basil as well. Traditionally the pesto is made with a mortar and pestle but I’m using a food processor. It’s fast and yields a fine paste.

The main ingredients are basil, pine nuts (pinoli), garlic, grated parmigiano and pecorino, and a really good extra virgin olive oil. Use the best ingredients you can afford.

Pine nuts from China are prevalent in the market and cheaper but they taste waxy and don’t have the full, clean, nutty flavor of Italian pine nuts so buy Italian pinoli if you can.

The Ligurian version is usually made with trenette, a flat long pasta or trofie, a short twisted pasta. I used gemelli (twins) a short twisted pasta pretty close to the hard to find trofie.

This is an uncooked sauce. Just process all the ingredients in a food processor. The pesto will be ready way before the pasta water comes to a boil.

The short twisted toothy gemelli burst with fresh flavor. The aromatic basil immediately tingles your tongue followed by the nutty flavor of the pinoli and buttery olive oil. The parmigiano, pecorino and just an echo of fresh garlic round out each bite. So simple and so delicious.

A few years ago we got lucky on a visit to Rome. My friend Guiliano who lives in the historical center had just returned from visiting his family in Genoa and he invited us over for dinner. He brought just-picked Ligurian basil back with him and he was making pesto for us. He added cubes of potato and green beans to the pasta and coated it all with the best pesto I’ve ever eaten.

For my American friends adding potato and green beans to this dish is controversial. I like it that way but many don’t. They just want pasta coated with basil pesto. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.

If you want to make the traditional Genovese version, cut the potato in 1/2 chunks. Cut off the stem end of the green beans and cut them into 2-inch pieces. When the pasta water comes to a boil add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes then add the green beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the pasta and cook to al dente. Strain the pasta, potatoes and beans out of the water, put them all in a bowl, add the pesto and mix to coat everything well.

Basil pesto is the most famous but there are many, many more. Try my Pesto Trapanese from Sicily with cherry tomatoes and almonds for a different taste treat. It’s one of 3 sauces I made for my potato gnocchi.

Buon appetito!

5-Minute Basil Pesto
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) gemelli or your favorite short cut pasta
  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt plus 3 tablespoons for the pasta water
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to cover the pesto
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigianno-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
Instructions
  1. Put 5 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat and bring it to a boil.
  2. In the meantime, put the basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil in the food-processor bowl. Process 10 to 15 seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, to form a coarse paste.
  3. Put the pine nuts in the food processor and process another 10 seconds, scrape down the bowl midway, until you create a uniform, smooth bright-green paste.
  4. Add the grated cheeses to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine.
  5. The pesto should be thick but flowing. If it is to stiff add a bit more olive oil.
  6. The pesto will be fine at room temperature until you cook the pasta. (If you keep it out longer, cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil so it doesn't discolor.)
  7. Cook the pasta to al dente, strain and put into a bowl. (Reserve some of the pasta cooking water.)
  8. Add the pesto and mix to coat the pasta well. If the pasta is too dry add some of the pasta cooking water.
  9. Top each serving with a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. (To store the pesto longer, cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap, close the container tightly and refrigerate or freeze the pesto. Let the stored pesto come back to room temperature before using.)

 

My Mother’s Day Tribute

My "Baby" Stool
My “Baby” Stool

To all the Mom’s out there my best wishes for a wonderful Mother’s Day coming this Sunday. Here’s my video Mother’s Day salute to all of you.

My Mom was a wonderful cook. I really can’t remember a bad meal, no, not even a mediocre meal, on her table every day.

When I was barely able to reach the top of the table I was at my Mom’s side helping her cook. I still have the little wooden stool I stood on.

Food was the core of our family. We ate together every day. Holidays brought 20+ relatives to my Mom’s table. It was a loving, sensuous and supportive environment that nourished us and shaped who I am today.

Mom was born in Mirabella Eclano, a small village near Avellino about 45 kilometers inland from Naples in the beautiful Appenine foothills.

Her family escaped their hardscrabble life and came to the U.S. at the turn of the last century. She learned to cook from my grandmother Rosa who lived with us until she passed at 93.

I’ve been cooking this food of my youth, adapted to the American environment, for over half-century. Not only is it delicious, but gathering family and friends around the table to share a leisurely meal continues to enrich my life.

As a tribute to my Mom I’m making her Sunday Gravy. Though she passed decades ago her influence on my life is unabated.

Here’s my story about tracing Mom’s gravy back to it’s roots.

What’s the favorite dish that your Mom cooked for you? Make it as a tribute to all she did to help make you who you are today.

Buon appetito!

Braised Baby Back Ribs with Potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

New Gianni Video Now Live

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

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

You can watch it now.

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

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

Keep on cooking.

Buon appetito!

Food, Family & Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

Grilled Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

Grilled swordfish with Samarglio Sauce
Grilled swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

The Sicilian summer heat came early one morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Buon appetito!

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

Sicilian Open Air Fish Market

A Surprise Guest in My Roman Kitchen

Giulia, my Roman home cook guide
Giulia, my Roman home cook guide and the video crew devouring the last of the saltimbocca

Giulia, the petite and effervescent aunt of my Roman producer, stopped by the apartment as we were setting up for the video shoot.

She was doubtful that a guy from San Francisco could cook Roman dishes and she wanted to see for herself.

Giulia does most of the cooking when her extended family gathers. I was glad she was with us. I was sure she would teach me a thing or two.

She really liked my sautéed chicory and the spring vegetable stew. Now we were best kitchen buddies and I tried to absorb all she told me in Italian.

As we talked about what was next up for me to cook, I had an idea. Maybe Giulia would show me how she cooked these dishes. I’d be her assistant.

After a bit of hesitation, she agreed to go on camera, as long as she could freshen up a bit first.

What an unexpected gift to have a Roman share her family veal saltimbocca and spaghetti cacio e pepe recipes with me.

When we post the Roman episodes you can make these dishes your own too.

Buon appetito!

Roman Kitchen Inspiration

Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market
Roman spring bounty at the Campo di Fiori market

I met up with Alessandro, my produce vendor friend in the Campo di Fiori farmers market as the sun began to break through the early morning clouds.

I was especially interested in what he harvested from his garden and from the wild. He had these wispy asparagus stalks no bigger than a thin straw that poke up from the ground for a brief spell this time of year.

I had to buy some for a frittata, a thick Italian flat omelet, the eggs flavored with grated pecorino, salt and freshly ground black pepper that would tide us over as we set up for the video shoot in my Spanish Steps apartment kitchen.

Fans suggested that I make on camera some of the classic Roman dishes that I made in North Beach to get ready for my trip.

Alessandro had wild cicoria, tender chicory shoots that inspired the first episode. It’s an easy dish but a universal method for preparing green leafy vegetables in a pan with olive oil, garlic and dried chili.

The second episode was vignarola, the Roman spring vegetable stew with baby purple artichokes, fava beans so young and tender they could be cooked right out of the pod and sweet spring peas.

Antica Norcineria Viola (pork store) right behind Alessandro’s stall had guanciale, cured pig jowl, to flavor this classic spring vegetable dish. Benedetto was my 4th generation Norcineria guide that his family opened in 1890.

I checked off the last item on my shopping list and we headed back to my apartment to cook.

In my next post you’ll meet Giulia, a wonderful Roman home cook, who happened to show up in my kitchen as we were shooting the video episodes.

In the meantime if you’re in the mood make an asparagus fritatta for yourself.

Buon appetito!

 

A Working Roman Holiday

Campo di Fiori Rome
Campo di Fiori Rome

Campo di Fiori, the farmer’s market in the historical center of Rome was ablaze in the morning sunshine.

The stalls were overflowing with spring bounty. Peas, artichokes, fava beans, chicory and other leafy treats, even early tomatoes, were everywhere.

I was scouting the market as I waited for Luca, my producer to show up with his video crew so we could plan tomorrow’s shoot. I wanted to see what I would cook in my apartment kitchen.

I came across Alessandro cleaning artichokes. When I took his picture he looked up and said I had to either give him one euro or a kiss. We settled on a Roman welcome embrace.

I can’t wait to share my market and cooking experience with you. New video episodes from North Beach and Roma are coming soon.

Buon appetito!

 

 

Spinach Pies–My Bridge to Italy

Spinach Pies from Naples via Providence RI
Spinach Pies from Naples via Providence RI

Making spinach pies today is a culinary bridge from the States to my upcoming temporary home in Naples.

The filling is inspired by the  “Wimpy Skippy,” a crowd-pleaser from Caserta Pizzeria on Providence’s Federal Hill, an Italian-American bastion.

I’ll find variations of spinach pies, called calzone in Italy, with all kinds of fillings when I’m in Naples. Neapolitans often fry calzone but I’m baking mine instead.

If you don’t want to make your own pizza dough, buy some at the market. Making the filling and the assembly are super easy.

Watch my pizza dough recipe to see how I make one pound of dough that will make 4 big calzone.

The golden tender crust has a nutty flavor. Garlic scents the sauteed spinach filling. Oozing mozzarella tamps down the heat from the pepperoni. A meal in a tidy envelope.

I hope my next post will be one of the 2 episodes we shot recently in North Beach. I’m shooting video in Roma next week with my friend Luca and his crew. We’ll post those episodes too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Spinach Pies
 
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Spinach pies or spinach calzones are encased in pizza dough. These are stuffed with spinach sauteed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, topped with pepperoni and fresh mozzarella then baked in the oven.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Spinach Stuffing
  • 4 cups cooked spinach, chopped
  • ⅓ cup black olives, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 16 pepperoni slices
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Instructions
  1. Set your oven to its highest setting. (Mine goes to 550 degrees.)
  2. Put a skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and garlic.
  3. Heat the oil and cook the garlic until it just starts to pick up some color.
  4. Add the black olives and stir well.
  5. Add the spinach and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix all the ingredients well.
  6. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
  7. If your using my pizza dough recipe, cut the dough into 4 pieces.
  8. On a well-floured board roll out the 4 dough pieces into thin rounds, about 10 inches in diameter. Or, form the rounds using your hands to stretch the dough.
  9. Starting in the middle, but ¼ of the spinach stuffing on the dough and spread it towards the rim leaving one inch border without the stuffing.
  10. Top the stuffing with 4 pepperoni slices and cover with sliced mozzarella.
  11. Fold the top half of the dough over the stuffing to form a turnover shape.
  12. Pinch the dough around the edge with your fingers to tightly seal the spinach pie.
  13. Using a pizza peel, slide each spinach pie on a pizza stone and bake until the dough is golden on top, about 8-10 minutes.
  14. (You can bake the pies on a cookie sheet brushed with olive oil if you like.)
  15. Take the spinach pies out of the oven and cool for a minute or two on a wired rack.
  16. Serve the spinach pies whole or cut in half.
  17. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
  18. (You can make the spinach pies ahead an heat them in a 375 degree oven for about 3 minutes.)

 

Meatballs Neapolitan Style

Meatballs from Napoli
Meatballs from Napoli

My trip to Italy is fast approaching. I wanted to do a couple of posts before I leave and the dishes had to be simple.

Meat-eaters love meatballs. These are from Naples and may be a bit different than what you’re used to eating here in the States. My Mom made them this way once in a while.

Usually for meatballs I use a combination of beef, pork and veal ground together but this time I’m only using beef. The addition of raisins and toasted pine nuts adds flavor dimension and texture to the meatballs.

The spicy meatballs are fork-tender. The sweetness of the raisins in tempered by the basil tomato sauce. The soft crunch of the toasted pine nuts is a welcome surprise. Simply delicious.

You can serve the meatballs with a vegetable or salad and with or without tomato sauce. I like them both ways. Don’t get too fancy though, the meatballs should be the star of your light lunch or dinner.

Use the tomato sauce to dress pasta or save it to use another time.

Keep an eye out for my 2 new video episodes that we shot in North Beach before I headed to Italy. I’ll spend 2 days shooting video in Rome. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of new episodes of my shopping and cooking from my apartment kitchen in the heart of Roma.

Buon appetito!

Meatballs Neapolitan Style
 
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Meatballs from the heart of Naples, flavored with garlic, pecorino, raisins and pine nuts served with or without tomato sauce
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 cups cubed dried crustless bread
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for frying (or use your favorite frying oil)
  • Tomato Sauce (Optional)
  • 1 28-ounce can imported San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Soak the bread in water.
  2. Add all of the ingredients (except the oil) into a mixing bowl.
  3. Squeeze the bread to get rid of the water then break it up and add it to the bowl.
  4. Blend the mix well with your hands (or a fork). (I squish it in my hands until the mixture is very well blended.)
  5. Take about a ⅓ cup of the mixture in your hands and roll it into a ball.
  6. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. When the oil ripples, add the meatballs.
  8. Brown the meatballs well. You want to develop a dark, firm crust all over, about 10 minutes total.
  9. Serve immediately with your favorite salad or vegetables.
  10. Tomato Sauce (Optional)
  11. Put the olive oil and garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
  12. When the garlic starts to brown add the tomatoes.
  13. Add the basil.
  14. When the tomato sauce rapidly simmers reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  15. Add the meatballs and let them warm in the sauce for about 10 minutes.
  16. Serve the meatballs immediately topped with a bit more of the tomato sauce.
  17. Makes about 12 meatballs.
  18. (You can use the tomato sauce for pasta or save it for another use.)

If you want to serve the meatballs with tomato sauce, here’s a simple recipe that will be ready in about 30 minutes.

 

Asparagus Frittata–Spring Has Sprung

Asparagus Frittata
Asparagus Frittata

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon apettito!

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

 

Steak and Mushrooms with Baby Arugula

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

Beef Brisket Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buon appetito!

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

 

Spring has arrived.

Buon appetito!

 

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding
Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a buttery bread studded with raisins and candied orange, lemon and citron peel.

Italians, especially in the north, love to eat panettone at Christmas and New Year.

Dunk panettone in your morning espresso or cappuccino. Panettone for dessert pairs well with a glass of vin santo or marsala. Leftover panettone is ideal for bread pudding or even french toast.

I didn’t have any panettone this holiday season but I couldn’t pass up buying one last week at a post-holiday 50% discount. After a few days I had my fill so I decided to use it up and made panettone bread pudding.

Bread pudding takes about 10 minutes of actual work to make. The rest of the time is just waiting for the panettone cubes to toast, then to absorb the custard mixture and bake in the oven. It’s an easy recipe with a big payoff.

My bread pudding has a rich and creamy interior with a golden, crunchy top. The buttery flavor sparkles with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. A little dark rum in the custard deepens the flavor. I had to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream to balance everything out.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Panettone Bread Pudding
 
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Panettone bread pudding is easy to make with a creamy, sweet interior and a golden, crunchy top.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Panettone (1 pound loaf) cut into cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 for the egg custard and 1 for whipping
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or ameretto
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven until they lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Put the eggs, 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla, sugar and rum in a bowl large enough to hold the toasted panettone cubes.
  5. Beat the mixture well and add the panettone cubes and mix well. (You may need to push down on the cubes to ensure they all absorb the egg custard mixture.)
  6. Let the panettone cubes sit in the bowl to give them time to absorb all of the custard, about 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour in the panettone cubes and spread them evenly in the pan.
  8. Bake the bread pudding in the oven until the custard is cooked through and the top has browned, about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove the bread pudding and set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the remaining cup of heavy cream to soft, stiff peaks.
  11. Place a square of the bread pudding on a plate and top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving.