Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce

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Cacio e pepe
Cacio e pepe is a minimalist Italian version of mac and cheese.

It’s ridiculous how a few quality ingredients can make such a sumptuous pasta dish. When in Rome cacio e pepe is one of two pasta dishes that I order at one of my favorite restaurants as soon as I arrive.

If you’re really hungry and want something simple to eat this no-cook sauce is for you. Boil well-salted water, cook the spaghetti and you’re almost done.

When the spaghetti is al dente, fish it out of the water and put it in a big bowl. Pour a cup of hot pasta water over the spaghetti, stir in the grated pecorino & freshly ground black pepper, toss and your ready to eat.

The silky zesty pecorino sauce clings to every strand of spaghetti and the black pepper explodes in your mouth. I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Be sure to buy the best spaghetti from Italy that you can. I prefer pasta from a small producer in and around Naples. This pasta could cost you 4 or 5 dollars but it’s worth every penny. Their durum wheat pasta extruded through a bronze die has a deep nutty wheat flavor and the rough surface holds sauce well. In a pinch I use De Cecco.

Buy a hunk of pecorino romano from Italy and grate just before using to maximize its taste. Buy quality black peppercorns and coarsely grind or crush them so that you fully enjoy their robust flavor and texture.

Oh, and that other pasta dish I can’t wait to eat when I get to Roma, spaghetti carbonara. Let me know if you want me to make that one in a future episode. Just leave a comment.

I often make a spaghetti pie when I have cacio e pepe left over. Just add beaten eggs, mix and bake it until the spaghetti strands on top are golden and nutty. It’s an easy way of getting a second day of enjoyment out of this tasty dish. You can make a spaghetti pie too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cacio e Pepe: Spaghetti with a No-Cook Pecorino & Black Pepper Sauce
 
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Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated pecorino romano
  • freshly coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • sea salt for the pasta water
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.
  2. When the water reaches a rapid boil add the spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti to make sure it doesn't stick.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking grate the pecorino, half on the coarse grate and half on the fine grate.
  4. Coarsely grind black pepper or crack them with a pan or a meat pounder.
  5. When the spaghetti is al dente fish it out with tongs and put it in a big bowl. (Save 2 cups of pasta water if you drain it in a colander.)
  6. Add a cup of pasta water to the bowl and toss to moisten the spaghetti.
  7. Add the grated pecorino and toss. If the pasta is too dry add more pasta water to form a silky sauce.
  8. Add the black pepper and toss the spaghetti well.
  9. Serve immediately. Have some pecorino and the pepper mill on the table for your guests to add more if they want.

 

Pasta with Prawns & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Recipe

Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce
Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce

I love the intense sweet roasted red bell pepper flavor of this quick sauce.

It’s a perky fresh topping for chicken, meat or fish and fantastic as a sauce for pasta.

I’m using it to dress strozzapreti (choke the priest) pasta and prawns.

Roasted pepper sauce is easy to make in the food processor. The prawns fry up quickly.

Once you have the roasted peppers you can have this dish on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta water. OK, maybe a few minutes more.

The sauce is sweet, the prawns crunchy, briny and tender. The toasted pinoli adds a nutty note and the paprika a smoky sparkling hot finish to every bite.

The intense flavors meld really well and are brightened by the fresh basil. A little sweet, a little hot and complex.  I couldn’t stop eating this really simple pasta and shrimp dish. Don’t think we’ll have any leftover today.

Be sure to subscribe to Gianni’s YouTube channel so you don’t miss the new video episodes from Hungry Village. The first of the new Gianni’s North Beach series is coming real soon.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

Roasted Pepper Sauce for Shrimp & Pasta Recipe
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) strozzapreti or you favorite short dried pasta
  • 12 large prawns, shelled and deveined
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • 2 large red bell peppers (or use jarred drained & rinsed well)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ onion, cut in half and then in thirds
  • ¼ cup toasted pinoli
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Prawns
  • Flour for dusting
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Roast the peppers on an open flame atop your stove or in the oven at 425 until the skin is charred all over.
  3. If roasting atop the stove put the charred peppers on a plate and cover with a bowl for about 5 minutes.
  4. When the peppers are cool enough to handle remove the charred skin, stem, and seeds.
  5. Scrape off the remaining charred skin and seeds and trim any large membranes.
  6. Cut the roasted peppers in pieces.
  7. Put them in the food processor bowl.
  8. Saute the onion in a large pan over medium heat until translucent.
  9. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  10. Put the onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts, roasted peppers, paprika, olive oil, and sea salt and black pepper to taste in the processor bowl.
  11. Process to a paste consistency.
  12. Add enough water or broth to bring the paste to sauce consistency.
  13. Put the saute pan back over medium-high heat. Add more oil if necessary to fry the prawns.
  14. Dust the prawns with flour, sea salt and ground pepper to taste.
  15. When the oil is hot, saute the prawns until the first side is golden, about 2 minutes or so.
  16. Turn the prawns over and carmelize the second side, about a minute more. The prawns should be firm to the touch.
  17. Put the prawns on paper towel to drain.
  18. Pour out any excess oil in the sauté pan if needed and over medium heat warm the saute panl.
  19. Add the roasted pepper sauce and sauteed prawns back to the saute pan and warm the sauce and prawns over medium-low heat as the pasta finishes cooking. (Sink the prawns into the sauce while they warm.)
  20. Add the torn fresh basil to the sauce.
  21. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix to coat all the pasta and prawns with the roasted pepper sauce.
  22. Arrange the prawns atop of the strozzapreti.
  23. Drizzle a little good finishing extra virgin olive oil.
  24. Serve immediately.

 

A Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe You’ll Love

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies

A northern Jersey friend enjoyed this yellow onion and anchovy whole wheat pasta dish several years ago at da Flora, one of my favorite North Beach restaurants. The food memory haunted her ever since.

She hasn’t been to San Francisco since that dinner at da Flora so I made my version of the dish when 10 of us gathered at the table back East last week.

Two of my Jersey friends picked 3 of us up in Manhattan and we headed to Arthur Avenue, NYC’s Little Italy in the Bronx to finalize our menu and buy what we needed for our 4-course meal from our favorite purveyors.

Then it was off to Clifton NJ for a day of cooking and eating together. 8 hours of conversation, laughter and fun fueled by fantastic food and wine.

The chance to be with family and friends around the table is what drives my cooking passion and warms my heart.

This is a simple recipe with few ingredients. Start making the sauce when you put on a large pot of salted water over high-heat to boil and the sauce will be done by the time the pasta is cooked.

The nutty toothsome whole wheat pasta is coated with the onion-anchovy sauce. The sweet onions play off the salty anchovies and the sweet acidic sherry vinegar adds a piquant finish to each bite. Savor a full-flavored pasta made from a few simple ingredients.

Flora is somewhat of a technophobe. I’m so happy that she finally decided to create a da Flora website. Take a look at this unique place. Meet the 3 remarkable women who prepare your meal with local seasonal ingredients, the best imported products and lots of love.

Book a table for your next dinner in North Beach. God bless Flora. She’ll only go so far on the web. You’ll have to call to make a reservation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Buon appetito!

Whole Wheat Spaghetti in an Onion-Anchovy Sauce
 
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A quick zesty sauce that's ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sweet onions play off the anchovy-garlic sauce and nutty whole wheat pasta for a full-flavored pasta dish perked up by a bit of sherry vinegar.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams, imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 2 yellow onions, halved and then slivered
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 10 anchovy filets, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups pasta cooking water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • drizzle of good finishing extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Put on 4 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt over high heat to boil.
  2. When the water is at a rapid boil add the pasta and stir so the spaghetti strands don't stick together. Cook until very al dente.
  3. In the meantime, place a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti over medium-high heat and add the extra virgin olive oil.
  4. When the oil ripples add the thinly sliced onions, sprinkle the onions with sea salt and cook until translucent and slightly browned.
  5. Add the sherry vinegar and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced.
  6. Remove the onions and sauce to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and melt the butter in the pan.
  8. Add the anchovies and thinly sliced garlic to the pan and cook until the anchovies dissolve and the thinly sliced garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute or 2.
  9. Return the carmelized onions and sauce to the pan.
  10. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the pasta water and rapidly simmer until the sauce reduces by about half.
  11. When the pasta is cooked to al dente, using tongs or a spider, add the pasta to the pan. (If you drain the pasta in a colander reserve a cup of the cooking water.)
  12. Add the chopped parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  13. Toss the spaghetti in the sauce. The pasta will absorb some of the sauce as it finishes cooking. (If the spaghetti is too dry add a bit more pasta water and toss again.)
  14. Serve the pasta in warm bowls and lightly drizzle each bowl with a good finishing olive oil.

 

 

 

 

Fat Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue
Paccheri with Ricotta and Fresh San Marzano Tomato Sacue

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.

Buon appetito!

 

Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce
 
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A creamy light ricotta and fresh San Marzano sauce coats the fat pasta tubes inside & out.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound or 500 grams dried paccheri or your favorite imported tube pasta
  • 1 pound fresh San Marzano tomatoes or the ripest summer tomatoes available in your market (or in a pinch a 28-ounce can of imported San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus more for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Put a big pot of well-salted pasta water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Make an "X" in the top of each tomato. Put the tomatoes in the hot pasta water until the skin begins to blister, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl and when they are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to form a smooth sauce. Or finely chop the tomatoes for a chunkier sauce.
  5. In a sauce pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the sauce pan along with the basil and oregano sprigs.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  8. Stirring occasionally cook the sauce until most of the tomato water is evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Combine the ricotta and the grated pecorino in a large bowl and mix them well with a fork.
  10. When the pasta water is at a vigorous boil throw in the pasta. Follow the instructions and cook the pasta until al dente. Before draining the pasta reserve a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  11. Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Stir well.
  12. Keep the remainder of the tomato sauce warm over low heat.
  13. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, rip in a few fresh basil leaves and fresh oregano leaves and black pepper to taste. (Add more pasta water for a looser, creamier sauce.)
  14. Serve immediately topping each plate with a little more tomato sauce left in the sauce pan and a light sprinkle of grated pecorino.

 

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

Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle

Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappadelle
Fresh San Marzano Tomato with Pappardelle

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.

If you want to have a quick cooked fresh sauce check out my San Marzano sauce with choke the priest pasta video episode.

Buon appetito!

Uncooked Fresh San Marzano Tomatoes with Pappardelle
 
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An uncooked fresh San Marzano tomato sauce marinated for 30 minutes with basil and garlic served over your favorite pasta. Simple and delicious.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, leaves roughly torn
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh pappardelle or your favorite fresh or dried pasta
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Score the top of each tomato with a cross and put them in the boiling water for about 20 seconds to loosen the skin. Remove the tomatoes to a bowl.
  3. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle peel off the skin.
  4. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.
  5. Cut the halves into strips and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  6. Put the tomatoes in a bowl with the basil, garlic and olive oil. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Set the bowl aside and let the tomatoes marinate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Stir occasionally.
  8. Add sea salt to the water and bring the water back to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente so that it is tender but still has a toothsome bite.
  9. Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add the marinated tomatoes and mix to coat the pasta well.
  10. Add a fresh ripped basil leaf, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated parmigiano to each plate of pasta.
  11. Serve immediately.

 

Braciole–Neapolitan Stuffed Beef Rolls

Beef roll-ups with a zesty bread stuffing in a San Marzano tomato sauce
Beef roll-ups with a zesty bread stuffing in a San Marzano tomato sauce

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.

I love meat roll-ups. Watch me make another kind of beef braciola and a pork braciola as part of my Sunday Gravy video episode. And here’s a tasty recipe for quick veal scaloppine bundles stuffed with mozzarella and basil.

Buon appetito!

Braciole--Neapolitan Stuffed Beef Rolls
 
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Braciole, slow braised beef rolls stuffed with prosciutto, provolo and a savory bread stuffing in an oregano-scented San Marzano tomato sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Put the stale bread in a bowl and cover with water.
  2. When the bread is soft squeeze out the water and put the bread in a large bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. When the eggs are cool enough to handle remove the shell and roughly chop the eggs.
  5. 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.
  6. Mix all the ingredients well.
  7. Lay the beef out on a working surface.
  8. 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.
  9. Spread the stuffing evenly over all of the beef slices. (Leave an inch border around the edges so the stuffing doesn't spill out.)
  10. Place a strip of provolo near the end of the beef slice.
  11. Tightly roll up each beef slice starting at the end with the provolo.
  12. Attach a toothpick through the braciole to hold it together while cooking. Or tie the braciole tightly with string at each end.
  13. Sprinkle the braciole with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  14. Put a pot over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil.
  15. When the oil is hot add the braciole and brown them all over. (Lower the heat if necessary so the braciole don't burn.)
  16. Set the braciole aside on a plate.
  17. 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.)
  18. Add the tomato paste and toast in the oil until its color darkens.
  19. Add the oregano and bay leaf and mix all the ingredients well.
  20. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a low simmer.
  21. Put the braciole and any juices that collected on the resting plate back in the pot.
  22. 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.
  23. When tender, slice the braciole in 2 inch slices.
  24. Put some sauce on a serving platter.
  25. Lay out the braciole slices and top with additional sauce.

 

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana, a tomato, onion and pancetta sauce from Rome.
Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, pasta with a zesty tomato, onion and guanciale sauce.

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!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
 
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A perky tomato sauce with sweet onion and pancetta pairs perfectly with spaghetti.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces guanciale, diced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups canned San Marzano tomatoes, squashed by hand
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
Instructions
  1. Put on a large pot of well-salted water (5 quarts, 2 tablespoons sea salt) and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is boiling make the sauce.
  3. Put the olive oil in a large sauté pan (large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti) and heat over medium-high.
  4. When the oil is hot add the sliced onions (and chili flakes if using) and saute until the onions soften.
  5. Add the diced guanciale and saute until the guanciale picks up a bit of color.
  6. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan picking up any brown bits on the bottom. Stir them into the sauce.
  7. Cook until the wine decreases in volume by half.
  8. Add the tomatoes to the pan. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce rapidly simmer for about 15 minutes so it thickens.
  10. When the water is boiling cook the pasta.
  11. When the pasta is al dente drain the spaghetti.
  12. Put the spaghetti in the pan with the sauce. Mix well to evenly coat the spaghetti with the sauce.
  13. Finish cooking the pasta in the pan for a minute or so. The spaghetti will finish cooking and absorb some of the sauce.
  14. Put the spaghetti and sauce on a serving platter and top with the grated pecorino. Serve immediately.

 

Bolognese Pasta Sauce

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

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.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:114]

Chicken Cacciatore

Hunter’s Style Chicken–Pollo alla Cacciatore

Flavor memories of my Mom’s hunter-style braised chicken overwhelmed me. I headed down the hill to get what I needed to make this easy, rustic dish.

I’m a breast man but go ahead and include all of your favorite chicken parts. The breasts take less time to cook so just simmer dark meat pieces a bit longer. Use bone-in and skin-on chicken for more flavor.

My recipe includes my father’s “secret” ingredient. He always added a sweet vinegar pepper to his chicken cacciatore. If you’re really energetic make my easy vinegar pickled peppers. (If you don’t have vinegar peppers use a dozen vinegar-brined capers or just a few drops of red wine vinegar. The acidity balances the sweetness of the peppers.)

I served the chicken cacciatore up with creamy polenta so I didn’t lose any of the sauce on the plate. Boiled rice works well too. You can also use the sauce for pasta.

The chicken is moist and tender, bathed in the chunky, sweet tomato-pepper sauce. I like to get a piece of bell pepper with each bite of chicken. Sometimes when I’m lucky, I get a piece of the piquant vinegar pepper too. Heaven!

Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:105]

Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Roma

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A Roman friend’s son Luca shot a video of Claudio, the chef/owner of Osteria Dar Bruttone making spaghetti alla carbonara, a classic Roman pasta dish. I had to share it with you.

Claudio is passionate about Roma and about its food. His osteria in the San Giovanni neighborhood where he serves simple traditional Roman fare is popular with locals and tourists alike.

Claudio beams as he talks about the virtues of the most beautiful city on earth and Roman culinary tradition, a vital part of Roman life. Walk with Claudio as he shops in the markets near his osteria for the food that he will cook at his restaurant that day.

The spaghetti alla carbonara video is in Italian but even if you don’t speak the language watch it anyway. The shots of Rome, the markets and the kitchen techniques are priceless. Everyone I know who watched the video, fluent in Italian or not, had to make spaghetti alla carbonara right away. Here’s my translation of Claudio’s recipe for you to enjoy in your kitchen.

Spaghetti alla carbonara only has 4 ingredients and is ready to eat in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti. Search out guanciale. It’s integral to the dish. (In a pinch you could use pancetta.) Use a dried durum wheat pasta extruded through bronze dies imported from Italy so the sauce will cling to its rough surface. Don’t be shy with the black pepper. Use pecorino for it’s more robust flavor, not parmigiano.

The spaghetti takes on a golden hue. Creamy, silky sauce coats every strand. Rich pecorino flavor plays off salty, crispy guanciale and black pepper tickles your throat with every bite.

I miss Roma. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:92]

A Post-Thanksgiving Melting Pot Dinner

Chicken Marsala

You would think everyone would be sated after a big Thanksgiving feast. Two branches of the family were here in northern Jersey and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to gather together before everyone scattered.

While heavily Italian-American, our table reflected the ethnic blending in America and the many diets prevalent today. The menu was crafted to satisfy the cravings of some at the table and the dietary needs of others.

My goddaughter makes a mean yellow rice passed down from her husband’s maternal Syrian grandma and it was a special request. One of my nieces is vegan so I wanted to make sure there were dishes she could eat too. It was a spectacular meal.

Here’s the menu.

Anitpasti platter with all the stuff we didn’t finish on Thanksgiving.

Ditali pasta in a simple onion and pea sauce.

Chicken Marsala, broccoli rabe and yellow rice. My vegan niece Jo Anne brought great peppers stuffed with spicy mushrooms, quinoa and black beans.

Dolce was all of the pies and cakes we didn’t finish on Thanksgiving. JoAnne’s vegan pumpkin bread was the star.

We had a great day together, catching up on all the family news and enjoying just being together. In our family, our culinary tradition is the glue that holds us all together.

This Chicken Marsala is an easy recipe with a really big payoff. We made enough for 20 at the table and some for Breanna to bring back to college to share with her friends. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:72]

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.

Linguine with Dungeness Crab in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Photo by Miles Grant

I was in NYC when Dungeness crab season opened last week, and couldn’t get them out of my mind. The reports were that the harvest was bountiful and the crab were big and meaty. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I had to get one and add the crabmeat to a spicy tomato sauce over some linguine.

It was delicious.

Lots of briny and sweet crab in a simple San Marzano tomato, garlic and dried chili infused olive oil. Once you have the crabmeat ready you can make this sauce in the time that it takes to cook the linguine. In Italia, they don’t put cheese on seafood dishes. It masks the fresh taste from the sea. Don’t do it!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Steamed 1-1/2 pound crab
  • 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 small dried chili or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound or 500 grams linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • Drizzle of finishing EVOO

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water over high heat to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Put the crab in a steaming basket to keep it out of the water. Steam the crab until it turns a bright red-orange, about 7 minutes for each pound of crab. Or, buy a just steamed crab at your fish monger and have it cracked.
  3. When cool, clean the crab. Here’s a link to how to clean the crab.
  4. Pick out all the crabmeat from the legs and body. Shred the crabmeat. Set aside.
  5. In a large cold saute pan, put in the EVOO, red pepper and garlic and over a medium-high flame let the garlic sizzle in the oil until translucent to infuse the oil with its flavor.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Simmer to let the tomato water evaporate and to create a thick sauce, 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Put the linguine in the pasta water to cook, about 8-10 minutes until al dente.
  8. Add the crab to the sauce and keep on a low flame until the linguine is cooked.
  9. Add the oregano to the sauce.
  10. Check for salt. The crab adds saltiness to the sauce but add more to taste if necessary.
  11. Pull the linguine out of the boiling water with a spider, slotted spoon or tongs and put the linguine into the crab sauce. Finish cooking the linguine in the sauce, about a minute or two, tossing to coat with the crab sauce.
  12. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mix with the linguine to distribute evenly.
  13. Serve immediately. Make sure each dish has some of the crab. Top each plate/bowl with a drizzle of a finishing EVOO.