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.
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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 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.
Francesco Cavucci who owns the wonderful Calabrian restaurant on Green Street and his partner Peter Fazio have put together a casual place with an impressive white Italian marble bar in the former Steps of Rome space on Columbus right across from Molinari’s.
“We’re celebrating the food of Naples,” Francesco told me this morning.
I was ecstatic.
Since both Pulcinella and Caffe Macaroni Sciue Sciue closed a few years ago North Beach hasn’t had a real Neapolitan spot.
“We making true Neapolitan pizza and our own mozzarella & buratta that you can eat while it’s still warm,” he said with a big smile on his face.
Francesco beamed more brightly when he told me “And we’re making panmozza found everywhere on the streets of Napoli.”
Panmozza are folded sandwiches made with a pizza dough that has shreds of mozzarella kneaded into the dough. Add your favorite sandwich goodies, fold over the dough and bake in a hot oven.
Il Casaro’s pizzaiolo (pizza maker) is certified by the Association of True Neapolitan Pizza in Naples.
In fact, the whole operation is certified.
You gotta use San Marzano tomatoes, certain mozzarella and zero-zero flour. The dough mixer for proper dough aeration and the wood-burning beehive oven have to be certified by the Association too.
I applaud the efforts to keep the traditional ways pure.
“This will be a casual neighborhood place where you can drop in every day,” Francesco said.
I can’t wait for Il Casaro to open.
I’ll be sitting at the bar right in front of the red beehive oven eating my panmozza.
You should drop in too. I’ll let you know when the doors finally swing open. And maybe I’ll post a panmozza recipe too.
So how did I choose to do a recipe for the traditional San Francisco Cioppino stew for this Christmas Eve video?
We wanted to do a new episode for the traditional southern Italian Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner. I didn’t have time to cook seven separate fish dishes because I was hosting a holiday dinner for my office-mates the afternoon of the shoot.
I mentioned my dilemma when preparing Thanksgiving dinner with the Virginia branch of the family. “We were lazy last year,” my nephew confessed. “We just made a 7-fish cioppino.”
Problem solved. Cioppino, the famous fish stew invented down on Fisherman’s Wharf by the immigrant fishermen from Liguria and Sicily is just the quick and easy dish I need for a busy day in the kitchen with the cameras rolling.
The local tale is that when the boats were all in a big cauldron was put over a fire to cook the tomato broth. After selling their catch, the fisherman one by one would bring whatever fish were leftover on their boat. They “chipped in” and the dish they all shared on the wharf got its name. More likely the name is derived from the classic Ligurian dialect for the fish stew found around Genoa, “ciuppin”.
This is an easy no mess recipe. Everything cooks in one pot. You can have cioppino on your table in way less than an hour. The briny seafood swims in a sweet rich San Marzano tomato bath. My favorite bite is dunking my garlic bread in the brothy sea-scented sauce.
Make sure you have plenty of napkins for your guests. You will get a little messy eating the crab and shrimp still in the shell.
If you want to make cioppino easier to eat take all of the fish out of the shells before serving. I like it best the messy way. I just love to scoop up some broth in each mussel and clam shell “spoon”. Any leftovers make a fabulous sauce for linguine.
How about a luscious pork roast for Christmas or New Year’s dinner? I made it for my office holiday gathering. The butterflied loin is smathered with a rosemary and sage paste that infuses its flavor into the mellow pork while roasting in the oven.
Cioppino is the classic San Francisco fish stew invented by Italian fisherman immigrants when the boats came in for the day. An easy and delicious dish for a very special meal.
Recipe type: Dinner
1 steamed dungeness crab, cleaned and cracked
6 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
6 clams, scrubbed
6 prawns or shrimp in the shell
½ pound calamari
½ pound halibut or your favorite firm-flesh fish (sorry I called it haddock in the video)
3 tablespoons EVOO, plus some to drizzle on top before serving
1 small onion, halved and cut in thirds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch pieces
half a fennel bulb, cut in thirds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand or pureed
2 big sprigs of basil
2 sprigs of Italian flat parsley, plus some chopped to sprinkle on top before serving
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
(slices of sourdough bread to grill, optional)
(1/2 cup of polenta to feed the clams & mussels, optional)
Put the mussels and clams in a big bowl of cold salted water and top with a ¼ cup of polenta.
Let sit for 30 minutes stirring once in a while to distribute the polenta over the shellfish. The clams and mussels eat the polenta and any sand inside the shell will be expelled.
(Simple bread rubbed with garlic is a must have when you're eating the cioppino. Slice sour dough bread and toast 1 or 2 slices per person in a grill pan. Put some weight on the slices to ensure they get grill marks. Toast the other side. Rub with garlic and sprinkle with EVOO. Set aside.)
Take the clams and mussels out of the polenta bath and wash them well. Debeard the mussels if necessary. Set aside.
Leave the prawns in the shell. Cut down the middle of the back and remove the dark vein. Set the prawns aside.
Cut the calamari tubes into one inch bands. If the tentacles are very large cut them in half.
Leave the fish fillet whole.
Put the EVOO and garlic in a large enamel pot over medium-high heat.
Toss the garlic in the oil to release its flavor but don't let it take on any color, about 1 minute.
Add the onions, fennel, red bell pepper, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to the pot. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
Over medium-high heat add the tomatoes and stir well.
Add the basil, parsley and oregano.
Cook the sauce until you reach the desired thickness. The volume should reduce by a third.
First add the clams and mussels to the pot and give them a 2-minute head start.
Next add the fish fillet, scallops, shrimp, calamari and prawns. Cover the pot and let it rapidly simmer for about 5 minutes.
Then add the steamed crab and give the pot a good stir.
Cook until the mussels and clams open, about another 4 minutes or so. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open.
Put the cioppino in a large serving bowl.
Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of a good finishing olive oil.
Serve immediately with the grilled garlic sour dough bread to dunk in the sauce.
I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.
I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night. My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.
I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.
I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.
Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.
I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.
First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.
How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.
The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.
Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.
Tomatoes overflow the farmers market. I bought fresh organic San Marzano tomatoes with this pasta dish in mind.
I’m in the mood for rich and creamy so I’m mixing ricotta with the quick-cooked tomato sauce and serving it with giant dried pasta tubes.
The classic Neapolitan Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro is a late summer treat.
Paccheri means “slaps” in Italian. Gentle face slaps not hostile ones.
The fat tubes collapse on themselves. The pasta makes a slapping sound when picked up with a fork because of the creamy sauce trapped inside.
Paccheri are a big mouthful of pasta so you need a sauce that will hold up to them. This one fits the bill.
I usually just add basil to a quick-cooked fresh summer tomato sauce. But I remembered that sometimes my Mom added oregano to her tomato-basil sauce so I did too.
The mellow creamy ricotta-tomato sauce coats the fat pasta inside and out. Add a dollop of the tomato sauce on top. The fresh basil and oregano shine behind the sweet tomatoes. The freshly ground black pepper lightly tingles your tongue. You won’t believe the flavor wallop from so few ingredients quickly cooked.
If you can’t find paccheri use rigatoni, ziti or penne instead. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes use the ripest tomatoes available in your market. In a pinch use a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes.
I scored the first of the organic San Marzano tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms at the Thursday Galleria farmers market in San Francisco’s financial district.
I was lazy and wanted a simple sauce so I didn’t cook it at all. This pasta can be on your table in about 30 minutes.
Just pop the San Marzanos in boiling water to loosen the skin and peel them. Roughly chop the tomatoes and let them marinate with extra virgin olive oil, basil and garlic for 30 minutes while the pasta water comes to a boil.
When the pasta is cooked add the marinated tomatoes and toss to coat the pasta well. Top each serving with a ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a light shower of grated parmigiano and eat.
You can use any fresh tomato for this pasta sauce. As long as they’re ripe and sweet, cherry, pear or heirloom tomatoes work well too. The heat of the pasta will bring out their full sweet flavor.
I didn’t make my own pasta. I bought some fresh pappardelle at the market but you can use long or short dried pasta too. Make it with penne or another short dried pasta and serve it at room temperature or slightly chilled and you have an Italian pasta salad for your summer buffet table.
I love the pure raw flavors of the sweet tomatoes and basil bathed in the garlic-infused olive oil. The toothsome pappadelle captures it all and adds a nutty wheat note to every bite.
These braciole are beef rolls filled with prosciutto, provolo and a bread stuffing with chopped egg, parsley, garlic and pecorino.
The braciole braise in San Marzano tomatoes to create a sauce with deep rich flavors and a brick red color.
In Italy the sauce is typically used to dress pasta as a first course followed by the braciole accompanied by a vegetable.
The sauce fills the house with the aroma of sweet tomatoes, garlic and oregano. You know long before the meal that you’re in for a treat.
The braciola is fork tender. The prosciutto and provolo add salty zest. Every bite is a surprise, a sweet raisin here, a crunchy pine nut there, all hidden in the rich bread and chopped egg filling.
I quickly sauteed baby spinach in extra virgin olive oil with a touch of butter and a smashed garlic clove, the spinach a mellow interlude to the complexly flavored braciole and oregano-scented tomato sauce.
Braciole, slow braised beef rolls stuffed with prosciutto, provolo and a savory bread stuffing in an oregano-scented San Marzano tomato sauce.
Recipe type: Entree
For the Braciole
6 thin beef slices, about 6 by 8 inches and about ½ inch thick. Pound the beef if necessary to get the right shape and thickness. (I use thinly sliced sirloin when I want to cut the braising time. Minute or flank steaks or bottom round slices work well but will need at least 2 hours to braise.)
2 cups stale bread, crust removed and cubed
⅓ cup raisins
⅓ cup toasted pine nuts
2 boiled eggs, chopped
⅓ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ pound thinly sliced prosciuto
¼ pound provolo or provolone, cut into 1 inch strips
For the Sauce
28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into a small dice
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
Put the stale bread in a bowl and cover with water.
When the bread is soft squeeze out the water and put the bread in a large bowl.
Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Over high heat bring the water to a boil. When the water boils shut off the heat, cover the pot and let the eggs sit in the water for 12 minutes so they're hard boiled.
When the eggs are cool enough to handle remove the shell and roughly chop the eggs.
Add the onion, garlic, chopped egg, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, grated pecorino, 1 tablespoon olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients well.
Lay the beef out on a working surface.
Cover each slice with a thin slice of prosciutto. Tap the prosciutto all over with the back of a chef's knife so it adheres to the beef.
Spread the stuffing evenly over all of the beef slices. (Leave an inch border around the edges so the stuffing doesn't spill out.)
Place a strip of provolo near the end of the beef slice.
Tightly roll up each beef slice starting at the end with the provolo.
Attach a toothpick through the braciole to hold it together while cooking. Or tie the braciole tightly with string at each end.
Sprinkle the braciole with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put a pot over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.
When the oil is hot add the braciole and brown them all over. (Lower the heat if necessary so the braciole don't burn.)
Set the braciole aside on a plate.
Put the onions, garlic and chili flakes in the pot and sauté until the onions are translucent. (Be sure to scape up the fond, the dark bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.)
Add the tomato paste and toast in the oil until its color darkens.
Add the oregano and bay leaf and mix all the ingredients well.
Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a low simmer.
Put the braciole and any juices that collected on the resting plate back in the pot.
Braise the braciole covered by the sauce until the braciole are fork tender, at least an hour or as long as 2½ hours depending the cut of beef you used.
When tender, slice the braciole in 2 inch slices.
Put some sauce on a serving platter.
Lay out the braciole slices and top with additional sauce.
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.
I’m hosting an informal Easter dinner next Sunday. Some of the friends at the table will be with me in Rome and Naples in a few weeks so I’m serving dishes from those 2 cities.
We’ll start with a savory deep-dish pie, Pizza Rustica filled with ricotta, mozzarella and salumi and a deep-dish ricotta with candied citrus peel pie, Pastiera Napoletana, will be the sweet ending to our meal.
Chicken Roman-Style with red and yellow peppers in a sweet tomato sauce with prosciutto bits will be the piatto secondo, the main course.
Pollo alla Romana con i peperoni is a simple recipe that is ready in about 30 minutes. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast but you can use any chicken parts that please you. If you have more cook time, bone-in pieces will add even more flavor to the dish.
The cooking method used here, insaporire, to develop flavor, is a classic Italian technique. Cook the chicken and peppers separately to develop their full flavors. Then combine them together at the end so that the ingredients absorb flavor from each other and the dish develops distinctive, yet complex flavors.
The chicken is infused with the soft sweetness of the peppers, the salty prosciutto and chunky San Marzano tomato sauce. A perfect flavor balance.
Serve some polenta or rice on the side to absorb the sauce and you have lunch or dinner on one plate.
Here’s one of my favorite spaghetti sauces that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. The recipe comes from the the small hill town of Amatrice in the Sabine Hills northeast of Rome.
You see spaghetti all’Amatriciana in all the trattorie in Rome. It’s a really popular pasta here in North Beach too. I get it whenever it’s on the menu at da Flora on Columbus.
Here’s my version of this simple sauce. It doesn’t have many ingredients. Make sure you use canned San Marzano tomatoes for this one. The tomato, onion and guanciale sauce is ready in about 20 minutes.
I like the sauce a little on the chunky side. It sticks to the spaghetti better. The onions enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes. The crispy little guanciale cubes add texture to every bite. I add some chili flakes to perk everything up.
Nothing better than a fat forkful of spaghetti all’Amatriciana. It’s a mouthful of flavor that packs a little heat.
In Amatrice they hold an annual August festival, Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, that celebrates their world-famous pasta dish. Here’s a video of the town and the festival devoted exclusively to this dish. Buon appetito!
Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).
Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.
Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.
The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.
By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.
And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.
Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Recipe type: Main
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large branch of fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 pound ziti
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
3 cups marinara sauce
5 basil leaves
1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
Set the sauce aside.
Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
Crispy fried eggplant with a ricotta and prosciutto filling is baked topped with a simple marinara sauce.
Recipe type: vegetables
For the Eggplant
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons EVOO
For the Egg Wash
2 tablespoons grated pecorino or parmigiano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Ricotta Filling
16 ounces ricotta
8 ounces mozzarella, cut in 1-inch cubes
¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Marinara Sauce
28 ounce can imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 sprig fresh basil
sea salt to taste
¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese for topping the rollatini before baking
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Making the Marinara Sauce
Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands (or a potato masher). Remove any large stems and skin.
Put the oil and the garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
Saute the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
Add the tomatoes to the pot.
Add sea salt to taste.
Add the basil and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally until the volume reduces by one-third.
Frying the Eggplant
Cut off the ends of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in ½ inch slices lengthwise. (I don't peel the eggplant so I discard the first and last slice that is completely covered by the black skin on one side.) You should have about 15 slices to coat.
Sprinkle with salt and place the slices in a colander. Put the colander in the sink or over a large plate for about 15 minutes. Bitter dark liquid will release from the eggplant slices.
Wash the eggplant slices well and pat dry. Set aside.
Add the eggs to a bowl large enough to hold the eggplant slices and beat them well.
Add the grated cheese, parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and beat the egg mixture well.
Put 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a large saute pan and heat over medium heat.
Place the egg wash on the counter closest to the saute pan.
Place the the flour in a dish and place it next to the egg wash.
Flour both sides of the eggplant slice. Tap off any excess flour.
Coat both sides of the eggplant slice with the egg mixture.
Saute the eggplant slices until both sides are golden brown.
Remove the slices to a dish lined with paper towel.
Continue coating and frying all of the eggplant slices. Add more oil if necessary.
For the Ricotta Filling
Put the ricotta in a strainer to let the liquid drain, about 15 minutes.
Put the ricotta in a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix everything together well.
Assembling the Rollatini
Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a light coating of the sauce.
Put the fried eggplant on a work surface and cover each with a slice of prosciutto.
Put a tablespoon of the ricotta filling on each slice about 2-inches from the narrow end of the eggplant slice.
Starting at the narrow end roll up the slice and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
Continue making the rollatini and place them in rows in the baking dish.
Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly over the rollatini.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the ricotta filling is hot and the mozzarella melts.
Actually it’s called ragu alla Bolognese. It’s a long-cooked meat sauce from Bologna, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, the culinary heart of Italy.
The ragu is traditionally served with tagliatelle in Bologna, a flat pasta a bit narrower than fettuccine. The pasta’s shape is perfect to maximize the sauce captured on its surface.
Spinach tagliatelle is the favorite in Bologna. I grabbed fresh spinach pasta at Molinari’s Deli on Columbus so I could focus on the ragu.
The ragu has to simmer at least 3 1/2 hours, even longer. I like to make it Sunday morning to eat for lunch or dinner. The aroma will fill your house all day.
You’re building layers of flavor here. Saute minced onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in EVOO and butter. Add the meat and mix them together. Cover it all with wine. Cook off the wine and add milk and nutmeg. Cook those off too, then add the tomatoes and simmer, simmer, simmer. You end up with a thick brick-red ragu with tons of flavor.
When the sauce is done, boil some well-salted water and cook the fresh tagiatelle. That will take about 3 minutes. Put half the sauce in a large bowl. Drain the pasta when al dente and put it in the bowl and mix well with the ragu. Place a serving of pasta on a plate and top with a big spoonful of the ragu. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano and eat!
The fresh tagliatelle is silky and coated with the ragu. The long simmer intensifies the complexity of the sauce and melds all the flavors together. The dusting of parmigiano reggiano completes this homage to Bologna.
This ragu is for a pound of tagliatelle, fettuccine or your favorite pasta.
When I don’t have time to make my own, one of my favorites in North Beach is Graziano’s ragu alla Bolognese at his Caffe Puccini on Columbus.