Father’s Day: Mussels with Hot Tomato Sauce

Mussels with a hot tomato sauce
Mussels with a hot tomato sauce

Father’s Day is June 15. You know me. Holidays bring back food memories. Here’s one from my Dad Gennaro (aka Jerry).

My Mom was always at the stove so my Dad didn’t cook often.  But when he did Dad made some really good dishes. This one is one of my favorites.

This is an unusual sauce. It’s not made with whole San Marzano tomatoes that I use in most of my sauces.

I make this one with tomato paste so it’s a really thick and dense sauce that you spoon on top of the mussels laid atop friselle, or hard twice-baked bread slices.

Heat up olive oil in a pot with the hot pepper. I use whole peperoncini, dried chili peppers. When the oil is hot add the tomato paste and the water you used to rinse out the cans and stir well. As it cooks the paste will darken to a red brick color and be really thick. Stir in some oregano.

While the tomato paste is cooking steam the mussels. Watch me steam mussels and clams. This is the technique that you’ll use for this dish.

Make sure you add enough wine and water to the steaming pot. You need a fair amount of the mussel broth to put this dish together.

If you’re lucky to live in an Italian neighborhood you will be able to buy friselle, twice baked bread rounds or rusks at a local bakery. I can’t get them anymore in North Beach so I baked slices of a sourdough loaf from Italian-French Bakery on Grant until they were hard and golden.

This dish may remind you of the sauce at Vincent’s Clam Bar or Umberto’s Clam House in lower Manhattan’s Little Italy. But my guess is that my Dad got this recipe from his mother and the food she cooked at her Quisisana restaurant in Newark’s Italian immigrant First Ward and later in Brooklyn through the 1950s.

The sweet thick tomato sauce surrounds the tender briny mussels just out of the sea. I hate to say it but my favorite bite is the twice-baked bread soaked with mussel broth and topped with the sauce. But I try to slurp in a mussel too. I love the kick from the peperoncini as it all goes down.

Happy Father’s Day. Wanna share your memories of food your Dad made for you?

Buon appetito!

Father's Day: Mussels with Hot Tomato Sauce
 
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Steamed mussels and friselle topped with a spicy tomato paste sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Seafood
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 24 mussels well-scrubbed, steamed
  • Strained mussel broth from the steaming pot, about 2 cups.
  • 4 friselle or baked bread slices
  • 2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
  • water to slosh-out the paste cans
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 peperoncini (dried chili) or 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and place 4 pieces of sliced rustic bread on a baking sheet and bake until slightly golden and completely dry, about 15 minutes. Set aside the twice-cooked bread. (Or use friselle, Italian rusks from your bakery.)
  2. Put the olive oil, garlic, onion and peperoncini in a sauce pot over medium-high heat.
  3. When the oil sizzles add the tomato paste and the water used to rinse the cans.
  4. Stir well and when the paste starts to turn to a darker brick red color lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes more.
  5. In the meantime steam the mussels using this recipe. http://www.gianni.tv/10-minute-mussels-clams/ or the link above in the post.
  6. Remove the steamed mussels from the pot and strain out the broth. (You should have about 2 cups of mussel broth.)
  7. Add half of the mussel broth to the sauce and mix well.
  8. Remove the top shell from the mussels.
  9. Rub the twice-baked bread with a garlic clove and drizzle each piece with extra virgin olive oil
  10. Put a piece of the twice-baked bread on the bottom of a dish or bowl.
  11. Drizzle some broth over the bread to soften it. (If more liquid is needed use water.)
  12. Spread some sauce over the bread.
  13. Arrange 6 mussels around the bread and top each with sauce.
  14. Sprinkle with each mussel and the bread with extra virgin olive oil and the parsley. Serve immediately.

 

 

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.

 

Cioppino: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco

Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Learn to cook Cioppino.

Don’t miss the next new video recipe. Please subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

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.

If you want to cook 7 different fish dishes for your Christmas Eve dinner make some of my favorites. Choose from 11 fish recipes.

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.

I served the porchetta with potatoes roasted with rosemary and sea salt and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and broccoli rabe sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil.

Make this fabulous porchetta dinner for your friends and family this holiday season.

Buon appetito! Happy Holidays! Treasure your time with family and friends at your table.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cioppino Recipe: A San Francisco Treat for Christmas Eve
 
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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.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 steamed dungeness crab, cleaned and cracked
  • 6 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 6 clams, scrubbed
  • 6 prawns or shrimp in the shell
  • 6 scallops
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. Put the mussels and clams in a big bowl of cold salted water and top with a ¼ cup of polenta.
  2. 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.
  3. (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.)
  4. Take the clams and mussels out of the polenta bath and wash them well. Debeard the mussels if necessary. Set aside.
  5. Leave the prawns in the shell. Cut down the middle of the back and remove the dark vein. Set the prawns aside.
  6. Cut the calamari tubes into one inch bands. If the tentacles are very large cut them in half.
  7. Leave the fish fillet whole.
  8. Put the EVOO and garlic in a large enamel pot over medium-high heat.
  9. Toss the garlic in the oil to release its flavor but don't let it take on any color, about 1 minute.
  10. Add the onions, fennel, red bell pepper, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to the pot. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  11. Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
  12. Over medium-high heat add the tomatoes and stir well.
  13. Add the basil, parsley and oregano.
  14. Cook the sauce until you reach the desired thickness. The volume should reduce by a third.
  15. First add the clams and mussels to the pot and give them a 2-minute head start.
  16. Next add the fish fillet, scallops, shrimp, calamari and prawns. Cover the pot and let it rapidly simmer for about 5 minutes.
  17. Then add the steamed crab and give the pot a good stir.
  18. Cook until the mussels and clams open, about another 4 minutes or so. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open.
  19. Put the cioppino in a large serving bowl.
  20. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of a good finishing olive oil.
  21. Serve immediately with the grilled garlic sour dough bread to dunk in the sauce.
  22. Serves 4-6

 

Start Thanksgiving Dinner with Crab & Vegetables in a Hot Bath

Anchovy Garlic Hot Dipping Sauce for Crab & Veggies
Anchovy Garlic Hot Dipping Sauce for Crab & Veggies

The dungeness crab season started a couple of weeks ago and the harvest is superb.

So here’s a simple delicious start for your Thanksgiving dinner, steamed crab and vegetables with bagna cauda, a flavorful anchovy-garlic hot dipping sauce.

This is a super easy dish. Buy some fresh-steamed and cleaned crab, dungeness here in the Bay Area, blue crab on the east coast.

Cut up your favorite vegetables. Serve the vegetables raw or blanch them for a couple of minutes in boiling water if you like. Slice some cubes of crusty, rustic bread.

Make the bagna caulda dipping broth in 5 minutes. Keep it hot on the stove until you’re ready to eat. You can serve it over a flame in a fondue pot or a small earthenware pot over a candle-warmer.

I just put the steaming bagna cauda in a small pot on the table without a flame. It’s usually all gone before it cools off.

Crab, multi-color carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper and green beans and crusty bread surround the bagna calda. You can leave the cracked crab in the shell to dip but I wanted to make it easier to enjoy. Drizzle some bagna calda over the crab pieces so your guests can scoop up some of the pieces too small to dip .

Dip the large crab pieces and the vegetables in the bagna cauda. Hold the bread underneath to catch any drippings as you transport the crab and vegetables to your salivating mouth. Dip the bread in the sauce, eat it and start all over again. It’s a fun antipasto to share.

The mellow briny anchovy-garlic infused oil is a perfect boost for the sweet meaty crab and crunchy veggies .

Here are some other suggestions to add a bit of Italy to your American Thanksgiving meal.

Best wishes for a wonderful time with family and friends at your Thanksgiving table.

Buon appetito!

Bagna Cauda-A Hot Dipping Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and then finely chopped
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Put the olive oil and butter In a small sauté pan or small pot over low heat.
  2. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. When the butter is melted and just starts to foam add the garlic and sauté briefly, until the garlic starts to give off its aroma, about a minute. (Don't allow the garlic to take on any color.)
  3. Add the anchovies to the pan and cook stirring frequently until the anchovies dissolve.
  4. Add the parsley and stir well.
  5. Serve the bagna calda immediately in a small crockery pot or bowl along with the crab, vegetables and bread.

 

Mussels Steamed in Fennel-Mascarpone Broth

Mussels steamed in a white wine and fennel broth with mascarpone
Mussels steamed in a white wine and fennel broth with mascarpone

I ended my birthday celebration with 3 glorious days in Boston. I knew I had to eat at NEBO and booked a table. It was my birthday and my friends’ anniversary celebratory 4-course dinner.

NEBO named for its original location in Boston’s vibrant Little Italy (North End Boston) recently relocated to the edge of the financial district.

Chef-owners Carla and Christine Pallotta and their 80-year-old mother made us feel as though we were at their home. The vivacious sisters serve the food they grew up with. Their grandmother and mother cooked their ancestral food from Puglia and Compania.

Mrs. Pallotta is a regular at the restaurant. She’s a constant mentor. “Don’t do it that way, do it this way,” she demonstrates while watching pasta being made in the kitchen.

Turns out that one branch of the Pallotta family is from a village in the Appenine foothills inland from Naples very close to Mirabella Eclano where my Mom was born. “We’re paesani” the 80-year old Mrs. Pallotta and I exclaimed in unison as we shared family histories.

Carla and Christine’s pan-steamed mussels were the star of our all-seafood antipasti course. I kept thinking about them so I had to try to replicate this fantastic simple dish. Here’s my interpretation of the NEBO pan-steamed mussels that we savored on that special night.

I think I got it right. The small mussels bathed in the  fennel-flavored mascarpone cream broth are briny, plump and tender. The fennel’s anise flavor balances the rich mascarpone broth. I scoop up some broth, fennel and shallot on each half-shell as I pop one mussel after another into my mouth.

Serve the mussels with grilled bread rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to sop up all the rich, flavorful broth.

This dish brings me back to the Bay of Naples. Grazie mille Pallotta family. I’ll be back and in the meantime I’ll recreate your wonderful southern Italian dishes in my kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Steamed Mussels with Fennel & Mascarpone
 
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Plumb mussels steamed with fennel in a mascarpone cream broth.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 24 mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh Italian flat parsley
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water, fish stock or clam juice
  • ½ cup mascarpone
Instructions
  1. Put the olive oil in a large cast iron pan or large pot over high heat.
  2. When the oil ripples add the fennel, shallot and bay leaf and sauté until the fennel is tender, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine, water, mascarpone and parsley. Mix well and boil until the liquid thickens a bit, about 5 minutes.
  4. With the broth at a rapid boil and add the mussels and put a lid on the pan.
  5. Steam the mussels until they are all open, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that didn't open.
  6. Serve immediately in the pan or put the mussels and broth in a large bowl and top with some fennel fronds.

 

Calamari Salad

Calamari Salad
Calamari Salad

I’m cooking dinner as a birthday gift for a friend and I’m in the mood for this calamari salad as part of the antipasti.

The steamed calamari is sweet and tender bathed in the zesty olive oil and lemon dressing. The celery and onion add a crunchy textural note. The mellow roasted pepper strips and buttery Castelvetrano olives fill out the flavor palette.

You can make calamari salad in about 20 minutes. Just chill it in the fridge and you’re ready to eat.

Buon appetito!

Calamari Salad
 
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Sweet tender calamari with a zesty lemon-olive oil dressing with celery and onion adding a crunch.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • The whole peel and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ pounds calamari bodies and tentacles, cleaned and bodies cut into ½ inch rings
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • ½ cup pitted Castelvetrano or other green olives, cut in slivers
  • 4 celery stalks with leaves, sliced thin (I like to use the tender, pale green inner stalks.)
  • ½ cup roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon hot chili flakes
Instructions
  1. Put 2 inches of water in a Dutch oven or pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the bay leaves and lemon peel and boil for a few minutes until they release their aromas.
  3. Set a colander or steamer over but not touching the water.
  4. Add the calamari rings and tentacles into colander or steamer lower the heat so the water is simmering. Cover the pot and cook until calamari is just cooked through and is opaque, about 5 to 6 minutes. (I taste the calamari to ensure that I take them out when they are cooked but tender. Don't over cook the calamari or it will toughen.)
  5. In the meantime in a large bowl combine the onion, olives, celery, roasted pepper, parsley, salt, oregano, peperoncino, olive oil and lemon juice.
  6. Add the cooked calamari to the bowl and mix well with the other ingredients and olive oil and lemon dressing.
  7. Chill the calamari salad before serving.

 

White Bean & Tuna Salad

Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion
Cannellini beans and canned Sicilian tuna salad with olives and red onion

I love cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna. Putting these 2 pantry staples together in this salad makes me very happy.

You can use canned beans but since there are only 2 main ingredients in the salad I like to use dry beans. They aren’t mushy like the ones in the can and don’t break apart as you mix the salad together.

Soak the beans overnight. But, if you’re like me and didn’t plan ahead use my speedy method to prepare the dried beans for the salad in about 2 minutes.

The creamy beans infused with celery, onion and bay leaf are the perfect base for the briny tuna, sweet red onion and tangy olives. Every bite is a delight.

Serve the white bean and tuna salad as part of your antipasti platter or on a bed of lettuce as a light meal with a hunk of crusty bread.

Buon appetito!

White Bean & Tuna Salad
 
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Combine 2 of my favorite ingredients, cannellini beans and Sicilian canned tuna, to create a full-flavored salad.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans
  • 1 celery stalk with top leaves, cut in large pieces
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 7-ounce can Sicilian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • ⅓ cup Gaeta olives
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Soak the beans in cold water to cover overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans
  3. (If you forgot to soak the beans overnight put the beans in a pot and cover with water at least 2 inches above the beans. Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse and continue with the recipe. If you're really desperate use canned beans. Be sure to rinse them well.)
  4. Put the soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches and bring the pot to a boil.
  5. Add the celery, onion and bay leaf, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or longer until the beans are tender.
  6. While the beans are cooking, put the red onion in a large bowl and cover with the vinegar. Let the onions sit in the vinegar for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the olives to the bowl.
  8. When the beans are cooked add them to the bowl.
  9. Add the olive oil and parsley to bowl. Gently mix the beans to coat the beans with the olive oil.
  10. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix the beans gently.
  11. Break the tuna into small pieces and add the tuna to the bowl. Mix the beans gently to distribute the tuna.
  12. Let the salad sit for about an hour before serving.

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns

Prawns wrapped in prosciutto roasted with olive oil, sage and garlic
Prawns wrapped in prosciutto roasted with olive oil, sage and garlic

I didn’t want anything heavy for lunch. I had a hankering for shrimp but didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking some up.

Here’s a simple dish that will be on your table in 15 minutes after you peel and clean the prawns.

Flavor extra virgin olive oil with garlic and fresh sage in a baking dish. Lay in the prawns wrapped in prosciutto. Drizzle them with EVOO and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Bake the prawns in a hot oven for 10 minutes. Plate them up, drizzle the oil from the baking pan all over and eat. How simple is that?

A whiff of sage and garlic precedes each bite. The salty, crispy prosciutto enhances the sweetness of the tender, moist prawns with just a hint of heat from the black pepper. A simple, yet complexly flavored dish.

I served these prawns with steamed rice on the side to soak up the sauce and a baby field greens salad simply dressed with EVOO, homemade red wine vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A perfect Sunday afternoon lunch.

You can also serve these prawns as an antipasto, maybe with giardiniera, my  pickled vegetables.

Buon appetito!

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns
 
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Prosciutto wrapped prawns quickly roasted in the oven with sage and garlic infused extra virgin olive oil.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 12 large prawns
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp and pat them dry.
  3. Put the sage and garlic in a baking pan and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon EVOO and place in the oven for 2 minutes to flavor the oil.
  4. Take the baking pan out of the oven.
  5. Reduce the oven heat to 350.
  6. Wrap each prawn with prosciutto.
  7. Lay the prawns in the baking dish in a single layer. (Be careful the baking dish will still be hot.)
  8. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Cut the butter in small cubes and scatter over the prawns.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Put the prawns on a serving dish and pour the oil from the baking dish all over.
  12. Serve immediately.

 

Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples

Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples
Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Napleslams at the fish monger. They’re all over Naples.

Neapolitans love clams. The outdoor fish stalls have clams of all sizes just out of the bay on display in buckets of water. For me, the smaller the better.

I love vongole verace, those clams the size of your thumb, but you have to cook a lot so everyone gets plenty of the tiny, tender clams. Sometimes I want a fatter clam and these larger ones were perfect, meaty but tender. Just right.

This is a dish that’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Just put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the spaghetti goes into the boiling water, make the clam sauce.

Heat olive oil, with garlic, parsley and chili flakes in another pot. When the oil is hot and the garlic is translucent, add the clams and a splash of  white wine, cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.

When the spaghetti is cooked very al dente add it to the clam sauce and mix well. The spaghetti will finish cooking as it absorbs the clam broth. Sprinkle the spaghetti with chopped Italian parsley, drizzle on some extra virgin oil and serve. You’ll be eating in less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

The spaghetti sticks to the tooth. The briny tender clams are redolent with garlic. The chili flakes add a sparkle to every bite and when I’m done my tongue tingles for a while. The pristine taste of the sea in bowl. Delicious.

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Spaghetti with Clams Straight from the Bay of Naples
 
Prep time
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Spaghetti in a clam sauce flavored with garlic.
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) spaghetti
  • 24 clams
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Italian flat parsley sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup dry white wine
Instructions
  1. Bring 5 quarts of water in a large pot to a boil for the pasta. Add 2 tablespoons sea salt.
  2. Wash the clams well. (I put mine in a bowl of water and sprinkle polenta on them to help clean out the grit as the clams eat the cornmeal.)
  3. Put the olive oil, garlic, parsley and chili flakes in a pot big enough to hold the clams.
  4. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  5. When the oil is hot and the garlic translucent, add the clams and the wine.
  6. Cover the pot and steam the clams until they open.
  7. Take the clams out of the pot and set aside in a bowl,
  8. When the pasta is very al dente, drain it and add it to the pot with the clam sauce.
  9. Toss the spaghetti as it finishes cooking. The spaghetti absorbs the clam sauce. (If you don't have enough liquid, add some pasta water to the sauce.)
  10. When most of the liquid is absorbed, put the clams back in the pot. (I take most of the clams out of the shell and save a couple for each plate of spaghetti as a garnish).
  11. Toss the spaghetti well with the clams.
  12. Put the spaghetti with clams on a large serving platter and scatter the clams in the shell all around.
  13. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

Farro with Tuna & Tomato

Farro with Tuna and Tomato
Farro with Tuna and Tomato

Farro is the new kitchen darling. A few years ago most people didn’t know anything about this nutty, nutritious ancient grain. I just love it.

I usually make cold farro salads of one kind or another. But, here’s a delicious hot dish that you can serve as a first or main course.

Farro is easy to make. Cook farro as you do rice or barley. Dress it up like pasta and it’s ready to enjoy. Fast and easy.

This dish is from Puglia, the southern Italian region on the Adriatic.

The nutty, toothsome farro is enrobed in a sweet tomato sauce flavored by briny cured tuna and capers. The red pepper flakes add a hot sparkle at the end of every bite.

Want a break from pasta? Make farro.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna, Tomatoes & Capers
 
Prep time
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Farro dressed with a cured tuna, tomato and caper sauce, a wonderful mix of farm and sea. Easy to make and full of zesty, nutty flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Rinse the farro and drain in a strainer.
  2. Put the farro in a pot with 5 cups of water, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of EVOO
  3. Over medium-high bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and let the farro simmer with the lid ajar.
  5. Cook until the farro is tender stirring occasionally.
  6. If the water is not absorbed, pour it out and remove the bay leaf. Put the cover on the pot and put the farro aside.
  7. Pour 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a pot or large skillet.
  8. Add the garlic slices and the pepper flakes.
  9. Saute until the garlic starts to take on some color, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and the capers.
  11. Heat to a slow boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl.
  13. Flake it into large pieces and add it to the tomatoes. Stir well.
  14. Cook for 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are reduced and thicker.
  15. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  16. Add the farro to the pot and stir well into the tomatoes.
  17. Cook until the farro is heated through.
  18. Add the chopped parsley and stir well with the farro.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year’s Eve Menu

Dungeness Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab Salad

San Franciscans love dungeness crab this time of year. The crabs are big and meaty this season. I’m making a celebratory dungeness salad with celery and shallot, EVOO and Meyer lemon.

The lemon perks up the briny sweetness of the crab bathed in mellow olive oil. The celery and shallot add a background crunch to the crab salad. Simple and sinful.

If your have steamed, cleaned and cracked crab the salad is done in 10 minutes. Use the recipe below and put a celebratory crab salad on your table. Add fried calamari and giardiniera and your antipasti is complete.

Lentil soup with cotechino is a traditional New Year’s Eve first course. It brings you good luck in the new year. The dish full of tiny lentils represents the coins you will amass in the new year and the fat boiled sausage your impending opulence.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the New Year’s Eve dinner menu I posted the other day. Something was amiss. As often happens I found inspiration in the market.

There it was, a beautiful boneless leg of veal roast sitting in the display case at Little City Meats. The roast with a zesty spinach stuffing will be the anchor of my meal. I’ll post this recipe soon.

I’m all set for New Year’s Eve dinner at my place. Are you?

Except for the Prosecco, we’re drinking some nice California reds.

Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year! Buon appetito!

Gianni’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Antipasti

Calimari fritti. Fried calamari served with vinegar pepper confetti.

Fresh dungeness crab salad with celery, shallot, EVOO and fresh Meyer lemon (recipe below).

Giardiniera

Zeppole. (fried savory, light doughnuts with anchovies)

Prosecco, a sparkling dry wine from the Veneto in northern Italia

Primo Piatto

Lentil soup with cotechino

Pinot Noir, Beulieu Vineyard, Carmeros Reserve, Napa, 2007

Secondo Piatto

Leg of Veal Roast with spinach stuffing

Roasted spaghetti squash

Cabernet Sauvignon, Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, Napa, 2010

Dessert

Sfogliatelle (crispy Neapolitan pastries filled with sweet ricotta)

A sip or two of my homemade limoncello and my strawberry liqueur

Italian still and sparkling bottled waters throughout the meal

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year's Eve Menu
 
A fresh clean taste of the sea, dungeness crab salad with shallot and celery,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 steamed dungeness crab
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Steam the crab or buy steamed, cracked crab at the market. (Blue crab or boiled shrimp can be substituted for the dungeness crab.) Put the crab meat in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Clean and crack the crab. Pull out out all of the meat leaving the pieces as intact as possible.
  3. Cut the celery in very thin slices.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Mince the shallot and add to the lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes to mellow its flavor.
  6. Add the EVOO and whisk well.
  7. Pour the dressing over the crabmeat.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the crabmeat. Mix well.
  10. Put the crab salad on a serving dish and serve chilled.
  11. Serves 4-6.

 

Christmas Eve Seven Fish Feast

Fish Market Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia, Sicily

Cena di Vigilia (Christmas Eve meal) is a Neapolitan tradition.

I’m cooking with my friend Susan in her New Jersey kitchen. Along with her brother Joe, we’ll prepare our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner for 20 friends.

I’ll miss the dungeness crab this year. The San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf crabbers are back after a brief strike over wholesale prices. I’ve eaten some since the crabs came back on the market last week so I think I can survive without them on Christmas Eve. If you’re in town buy some crab. They’re fresh, big and meaty.

Create your own Cena di Viglia with these recipes and an extra fried shrimp recipe too. I’ll definitely be frying up some calamari and shrimp for my Jersey Christmas Eve.

Buon Natale e buon appetito!

Crispy Succulent Shrimp (Gamberi Fritti)

When I was a kid on a steamy summer Friday night in Jersey, fried fish was one of my favorite dinners. My Mom lightly dredged an array of fish in flour and quickly fried them in olive oil. We ate the fish hot out of the oil with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt.

I liked the crispy sweet shrimp the best. I’d grab one from the stove and shove the whole thing in my mouth. If I tried to get another my Mom always shooed me away. “Save some for the table!”

The fat white Gulf prawns at the fishmonger this morning were just right for today’s lunch. I’m eating at least a half dozen with abandon.

A quick meal with the pristine taste of the sea. Fry the shrimp and serve them hot out of the oil with a squeeze of lemon. The shrimp are paired here with my version of panzanella, a summer tomato and bread salad. Just add a bottle of crisp, chilled pinot grigio to the table and eat.

Fry up your favorite fish as well. I really like a nice piece of fried sole. You can quickly fry up some squid too, as I did in my calamari fritti video.

Buon appettito!

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Holidays in America

Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich. Photo by PBS.

Need a boost as the holidays near? I got one watching the first episode of PBS’ Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables and Traditions.

Lidia Bastianich explores holiday traditions that bring family and friends together at the table.  The show is a celebration of diversity and of the common human experience. If you missed it on TV catch it on the web. You’ll feel good.

The Mexican Christmas dinner with four generations of the Cortez family who own Mi Terra restaurant in San Antonio and Passover Seder with a New York City family and food maven Ruth Reichl are great. But my two favorites are the Feast of the Seven Fishes Lidia cooked in her kitchen with Stanley Tucci and the Chinese New Year meals here in San Francisco with Chinatown legend Shirley Fong-Torres.

I love Tucci’s insight into the role of food in Italian families. Shirley tells a fascinating story of how the Fong family from China became the Torres family in the Philipines and prospered in San Francisco.

Go shopping with Lidia and Mo Rocca on Arthur Avenue, “New York City’s Real Little Italy”. Explore the streets of San Franciso’s Chinatown and glimpse Shirley’s deep understanding of this great neighborhood.

There are some great recipes on the site too. If you need more recipes for your own Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes try some of mine.

Buon Natale!

Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes (Cena di Vigilia)

Arancini with aioli

UPDATE: There is now a video recipe for Cioppino, the simple and easy seven-fish San Francisco stew: WATCH NOW

Italian-American families have their favorite dishes for Christmas Eve fish dinner – some serve 7 fish (for the 7 sacraments or 7 virtues), some serve 10 (for the 10 stations of the cross) and others 13 fish (for Jesus and the 12 apostles). I serve 7 fishes not for the religious symbolism but to draw family and friends to the table to enjoy a great 3-course fish meal and each other during the holiday season.

When I was growing up my family ate fish because it was a Catholic rule, no meat on Christmas Eve. We loved this meal so much we still cook it many years after the meat ban was dropped by the Church. It’s a big part of my holiday tradition. You can catch some of my excitement in the video we just released. I fried up some squid.

If you want to eat some fish on Christmas Eve or any day of the year check out some of my fish posts from the past year. Cook one dish or a bunch at the same time. You’ll be eating well in any case.

Let’s see if we can get to 7 fish dishes. Your first one is Calamari Fritti above.

Continuing the antipasto (before the meal) theme, how about some steamed mussels and clams with a hunk of garlic bread for dunking in the broth? (Like the calamari fritti eat these as soon as they’re done.)

Cod fish cakes anyone? If I was serving the cakes with other dishes in the antipasto I’d make the cakes much smaller, almost bite size. (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Maybe arancini (fried rice balls) stuffed with bay shrimp and served with a spicy aioli? (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Here’s one that you can put out in the antipasto course or use as a secondo piatto (second course) dish. I always have to have some sole on Christmas Eve.

For the primo piatto (first course) linguine in a spicy crab tomato sauce.

Here’s a great secondo piatto (second course), halibut baked with roasted cherry tomatoes, potatoes and green olives. I like to roast the whole fish, a branzino or sea bass, using this recipe. Just put the herb(s) inside the fish otherwise follow the original recipe. Debone the fish before serving.

That’s 7, but hey, it’s the holidays so here are a few more: fried shrimp, sword fish with salmoriglio sauce and  shrimp with oregano and garlic, simply roasted in a hot oven; and baccala salad below.

Check out my free vegetable eBook for some ideas of sides to serve with these fish dishes. Buon Natale!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:78]

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