Porchetta War: Who will win?

Picking a Rancho Llano Seco porchetta to slow roast on an open spit.
Picking a Rancho Llano Seco porchetta to slow roast on an open spit.

I shot a porchetta episode a while ago. It’s a favorite among my friends and family so I had to share my recipe. And the episode got lots of views and tons of positive comments. Then, things suddenly turned nasty. The Italians got involved.

They started to flame me. One guy said I was like a counterfeiter handing out phony money with this recipe. The comments really made me mad.

But, after a time, I realized that the Italians weren’t being mean. They were just protecting their food culture and traditions. My porchetta was an American variation and the Italians weren’t happy I desecrated the classic porchetta they loved.

So they inspired me to do a Bay Area farm to table traditional whole pig porchetta. And I’d do it literally farm to table. I’d find a pig. I’d visit the farm and see how it was raised. I’d help butcher it and season it. I’d cook it on a spit over charcoal. And we’d film the whole thing.

So me and my Hungry Village producers found Rancho Llano Seco, a local farm north of San Francisco. We met up with Jamie at the Rancho to pick out the pig for my porchetta. When we got to the barn and open pen where the mature hogs spend their last days on the Rancho, there she was, a big sow with a beautiful red coat hiding just inside the barn. There’s my porchetta. I called her Bella.

Jamie sent Bella to my butchers at Golden Gate Meats in San Francisco’s Ferry Building .  I joined Tom, who deboned the porchetta with a surgeon’s skill. Shoulder, sirloin, rib meat and loin all intact with a thick layer of belly and fat under the skin.

We scored the skin to form diamonds. Nothing less for Bella. Meat side up I scattered chopped rosemary, garlic, golden wild fennel pollen, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper all over. Rolled and tied, the porchetta sat for 2 days to let the aromatics infuse all the meat.

The porchetta slowly roasted on a spit over an open fire for hours. Each slice included a little bit of rib meat, loin, belly and crispy skin. A few lucky people also got shoulder or sirloin. 3 dozen friends and fans enjoyed a wonderful afternoon on San Francisco’s Russian Hill eating porchetta panini done the Bay Area Slow Food farm to table way.

And, in a nod to how porchetta sandwiches, are served around the Bay Area, I offered caramelized onions, sautéed broccoli rabe and fresh baby arugula as toppings. They don’t do that in Italy. I hope I don’t get in trouble again. I don’t want to go to Italian prison.

So there you go, Italy. I did porchetta the way it’s supposed to be done. Let’s be friends again.

Tortellini in Brodo: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth

Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo
Tortellini in Brodo–don’t forget the parmigiano reggiano!

I always have to satisfy a variety of diets at my table. A recent lunch gathering was no exception – vegetarians amongst the meat eaters! But, I had a strategy…

My method for vegetable sides, sauces or soups is to start with the universal base.

In the video I explain how to stage the cooking so that you end up with a vegetarian version of tortellini in brodo, and a roasted meat and vegetable stuffed tortellini in a chicken brodo, too.

It’s a traditional dish from Emilia-Romagna, the region of Italy around Bologna, called the “culinary heart” of Italia.

They’re famous for stuffed pasta among many other culinary wonders – mortadella (the original bologna), parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto and balsamic among them.

The tortellini’s rich roasted meat and vegetable stuffing is enrobed in a silky yet toothsome pasta skin. Scoop one up in your spoon filled with the delicate deep-flavored chicken broth and you’ll be in heaven.

Watch me make fresh pasta to use for the tortellini.

Buon appetito!

Tortellini in Brodo Recipe 2 Ways: Homemade Stuffed Pasta in Broth
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Itaian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Brodo
  • 1 onion, cut in chunks
  • 1 carrot, cut in chunks
  • 1 rib celery, cut in chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pound chicken parts
Tortellini Filling
  • 8 ounces pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes
  • 2 ounces pancetta, (thick slice) cubed
  • 2 ounces mortadella (thick slice), cubed
  • 11/2 teaspoons crumbled dried porcini
  • 1 small onion, cut in small pieces
  • 1 rib of celery, cut in small pieces
  • 1 small carrot, cut in small pieces
  • 11/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 stem of rosemary, leaves only
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pasta
  • (Watch me make the pasta dough in my fresh ravioli video episode.)
Instructions
Brodo
  1. Put a big pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the olive oil.
  3. When the oil begins to ripple add the onion, carrot, and celery.
  4. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent. (You don't want the vegetables to pick up any color.)
  5. Add the water and bring the pot to a gentle boil.
  6. (For the vegetarian version let the vegetable broth cook for about 20 minutes and set some aside before adding the chicken.)
  7. Add the chicken and cook until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
  8. Strain all of the ingredients over a big bowl to collect the broth.
  9. Over medium-high heat return the broth to the low boil.
Filling
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Put the pork, mortadella, pancetta, all the vegetables, and rosemary in a shallow baking pan.
  3. Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything well.
  4. Add the water to the pan.
  5. Roast in the oven until everything is knife tender and browned.
  6. (For the vegetarian version roast the vegetables and meats in separate roasting dishes and mince only the vegetables in the food processor, add the egg, parmigiano and nutmeg to stuff the vegetarian tortellini.)
  7. When the roasted pork and vegetables have cooled put everything in a food processor bowl and pulse until everything is minced well.
  8. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the egg, nutmeg and parmigiano and mix well.
Pasta
  1. Use the recipe for ravioli on gianni.tv. Watch me make it at http://www.gianni.tv/fresh-pasta-ricotta-ravioli-in-a-san-marzano-sauce/
Making the torellini
  1. Lay out a long fresh pasta sheet.
  2. Cut the sheet in 3-inch squares.
  3. Wet the edges of each square with water. (I use dip my thumb in a bowl of water.)
  4. Add ½ teaspoon of the filling near a tip of square.
  5. Fold over the other half of the square and pinch the seam to tightly close it.
  6. Wrap the tortellini around your finger, pull the 2 ends together and squeeze the ends together.
  7. Put the tortellini on a floured kitchen towel. Make sure they don't touch or they'll stick together.
  8. When the broth is at a low boil add the tortellini and stir them so they don't stick. (The tortellini are delicate so you don't want a rapid boil.)
  9. When the tortellini raise to the surface let them roll in the boil for about a minute and they should be al dente and ready to come out. (Eat one if you're not sure they're done.)
  10. Serve immediately with grated parmigiano for your guests to sprinkle on top of each bowl.

 

 

Marcella Hazan Tribute: Pork Loin Braised in Milk

A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.
A Marcella Hazan Tribute, one of my favorite dishes.

Just before I left for a wonderful birthday celebration with friends in Provincetown on Cape Cod and Boston I learned that Marcella Hazan, the extraordinary Italian cook and teacher had passed on September 29.

Marcella was one of my early teachers. She opened up a world of authentic Italian cooking using a few choice ingredients and simple methods.

I remember well the sunny Sunday morning many years ago when Marcella visited my restaurant in Providence. We were all on pins and needles. The woman who taught America how to cook and eat Italian would soon be here.

Marcella was in town for a food editors conference and we were hosting a reception at the restaurant the next night featuring her dishes.

Marcella stepped out of the car with her husband Victor and son Giuliano, a cigarette with an incredibly long ash dangling from her lips.

After sidewalk introductions, we walked into the restaurant. I asked what she would like. “Jack Daniels on the rocks,” Marcella replied in her unmistakeable raspy voice. As I poured her bourbon we all sighed and relaxed. We spent 2 incredible days in the kitchen with the giving La Cucina Italiana master.

In honor of a remarkable woman, here’s my riff on one of my favorite recipes from her ground-breaking first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook: The art of Italian cooking and the art of Italian eating. I cherish the soiled copy she inscribed for me those many years ago. I hope you enjoy this pork loin braised in milk as much as those at my table do.

The delicate flavor of the tender, moist pork loin is enhanced by the clusters of nutty brown pan sauce. Add your favorite sides and dinner is served. I served mine with baby spinach sauteed with extra virgin olive oil.

Mille grazie Marcella. You live on in my kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Pork Loin Braised in Milk
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 2½ cups milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper all over the loin. Pat it in with your hand.
  2. Put the butter and oil in a enameled or heavy-bottemed pot that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat.
  3. When the butter foam subsides add the meat fat side down.
  4. Brown the loin thoroughly on all sides. Lower the heat if the butter turns dark brown.
  5. Slowly add the milk to the pot.
  6. When the milk comes to a boil reduce the heat to medium-low or even low to keep the milk at a low simmer, cover the pot with the lid a bit askew.
  7. Cook the loin slowly until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  8. Turn and baste the loin occasionally and if needed add more milk.
  9. By the time the loin is cooked the milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters on the bottom of the pan. (If it is still pale remove the loin, uncover the pot, raise the heat and cook briskly until the milk bits darken.)
  10. Remove the loin and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.
  11. Skim all the fat from the pot. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up all the residue on the bottom of the pot as the water evaporates. Taste the pan sauce and add more salt and black pepper if desired.
  12. Cut the loin into half-inch slices and arrange them on a serving platter.
  13. Spoon the pan sauce over the slices and serve immediately.

 

 

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy brought me to tears. Check it out in the closing credits. Hand-crushed tomatoes and long-braised meats galore. The traditional, long-cooked pasta sauce from a small village in Campania. You have to make this one next Sunday!

Watch the video once, then follow along with Gianni, glancing at the recipe when you need to cheat:

Ingredients

Meat

  • Pork braciola: Thinly cut slice of pork shoulder or pork loin
  • Beef braciola: Thinly cut slice of beef chuck or round
  • Meatballs: Mixture of 1/3 ground beef, ground pork, ground veal,
  • 11/2 pounds total
  • 4 Italian sausage links
  • 1 cup Italian flat parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the pork braciole: about 12 lightly toasted pinoli (pine nuts) and 12 raisins
  • For the meatballs: ½ cup of stale bread soaked in water or milk and squeezed dry to form the pinade (la pinada)
  • 1 egg

For frying:

  • 1/8 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Gravy

  • 2 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes imported from Campania, Italy
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 carrot, cut in half and then in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 celery stalk cut in 2 inch pieces
  • ½ white onion, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 4 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Pasta

  • 1 lb or 500 grams pasta. Fusilli napoletani is used in the recipe, but you can use any pasta you want. Make sure that it is durum wheat pasta imported from Italy that is extruded through a bronze die. Look for something like this on the package: “Pasta trafilata in bronzo”.
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Cooking Directions

Gravy

  1. In a thick-bottomed pot, put the olive oil, the battuto (carrot, celery, onion, garlic and bay leaf). Turn heat to medium-low and sauté slowly. This is your soffritto (the odori, flavoring vegetables and herbs). You want these ingredients to be translucent, not browned, so they infuse the oil with their flavor.
  2. Crush the San Marzano tomatoes with your hands until they are all broken up into rough chunky texture. Discard any basil, peel or stems or veins on the inside of the tomato (usually white or yellow).
  3. When the soffritto is translucent and sizzling a bit in the oil, add the tomatoes. Stir to mix the tomatoes and the suffritto. Add the basil and parsley sprigs and submerge in the gravy. Add the sea salt. Reduce to low heat, cover the pot and simmer gently. Stir the pot frequently so it doesn’t burn. This is a long-simmered sauce and will cook for at least 3 hours after the meat is added to the gravy.

Meats

Braciole

  1. Finely chop the parsley and garlic. Set aside. You will use half for the braciole and half for the meatballs.
  2. Lay the pork and beef braciole out flat on the board. Take ½ of the garlic/parsley and equally divide the garlic/parsley paste between the two braciole. Spread the paste evenly over the surface of each braciola leaving about a 1/2 inch border at the long edges. Sprinkle ¼ cup grated Pecorino evenly over both braciole. Sprinkle salt and tower to taste over both.
  3. For the pork braciola only: Spread 12 toasted pinoli and 12 raisins evenly over the pork braciola.
  4. Tightly roll up each braciole and tie with string to keep the paste inside and to maintain the shape of the braciole.

Meatballs (Polpette)

  1. Put the ground meat, the remaining chopped garlic/parsley, Pecorino, stale bread pinada, egg, and ground salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Combine the ingredients with your hand. Squeeze everything together so that it is a homogeneous mixture. Put about 2 tablespoons of the meat into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball, round and slightly flat.
  2. Over a high flame, heat a large sauté pan, add the canola and EVOO and heat until it ripples and smokes a bit. Add all the meat and reduce heat to medium-low and cook the meat until a brown crust forms.  Cook the meat in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Do not touch the meat until you can easily move the meatballs, sausage and braciole in the pan, without them sticking. Turn over and brown on the other side. You want to caramelize the meat and form a nice brown crust.
  3. When well browned, transfer the meat, except the meatballs, in the gravy. Make sure all of the meat is submerged. Leave the lid of the pot ajar a bit to let some of the water evaporate so a thicker gravy forms. Gently simmer for at least 3 hours on a low flame. You want the braciole to tenderize by simmering in the gravy. Add the meatballs to the gravy about a half hour prior to cooking the pasta.

Cooking the Pasta and Finishing the Dish

  1. Put the water and salt in a large pot. Make sure that the pot is big enough to allow the long fusilli to “dance” in the salted water. Cook about 8 minutes until the pasta is very al dente. It will finish cooking in the gravy in a sauté pan.
  2. Put about 2 cups of the gravy in a large sauté pan and heat over a medium flame. Pull out the al dente fusilli and put in the sauté pan. Finish cooking the fusilli in the gravy, turning it so that the gravy is absorbed by the pasta to finish cooking. You should just have enough gravy to fully coat all of the fusilli.
  3. Close the flame. Grate Pecorino to taste and mix to distribute it throughout the pasta. If you wish, drizzle with a good quality EVOO.
  4. Remove the strings from the braciole and slice into ½ inch slices. Put the braciole, meatballs and sausage on a serving platter and top with some of the gravy.
  5. Serve the pasta in a warm bowl or plate. Traditionally, the pasta is served as a separate course, followed by the meats as the next course. To be honest, I usually serve the pasta and the meats at the same time. My guests can decide how to enjoy the pasta and the long-simmered meats.

Serve with a hearty red from Campania, an aglianico or taurasi perhaps.