Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing

Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto done in 90 minutes
Roasted turkey breast stuffed with mellow sauteed spinach and salty prosciutto

This is part two of our Thanksgiving special. Check out part one here.

I’m not in the mood to roast a whole turkey this year so I came up with this easy tasty boneless breast roast that’s ready after about 90 minutes in a hot oven.

The flavor of the Diestel turkey is out of this world, so much better than those factory-raised frozen birds in the supermarket.

These off-the-grid organic turkeys from Sonora, in the Sierra foothills, get to range about the farm and eat only organic grains raised on the farm.

The breast meat is tender and full of mild flavor. My stuffing and roasting broth keep the breast moist while it roasts.

Make sure each bite has some of the crispy skin, tender breast meat and mellow spinach stuffing topped with salty prosciutto. You won’t be sorry.

Add a starch and your Thanksgiving dinner is ready to serve in less than 2 hours. That way you can linger over your morning coffee before getting ready for your guests.

Watch me make roasted garlic and olive oil mashed potatoes. Or how about roasted brussel sprouts or a green bean salad?

Make my easy pumpkin ricotta cheesecake the day before for a light dessert full of fall spice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Buon appetito!

Roasted Turkey Breast with Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffing
 
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A Thanksgiving dinner that you can cook in under 2 hours. You won't believe the complex flavor of the moist tender breast and the mellow spinach and salty prosciutto stuffing.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 4 Pound turkey breast, deboned and butterflied
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh flat Italian parsley
  • 3 lemon slices
  • 4 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Over medium heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot.
  3. When the oil is hot saute the onions until they are translucent and tender.
  4. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pot and raise the heat to medium-high.
  5. Add as much of the spinach as you can to the pot and turn it to mix it with the onions and to help it all wilt. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  6. Add more spinach until all of it is wilted.
  7. Put the spinach in a bowl and mix in the grated parmigiano and set the spinach aside to cool.
  8. Butterfly the breast and lay flat open, pounding with a meat mallet to create even thickness throughout. (Save time. Ask your butcher to butterfly the breast for you.)
  9. Spread the spinach mixture across the breast, leaving a 1½ inch border all around.
  10. Put the prosciutto slices in a single layer over the spinach.
  11. Beginning at one end, firmly roll up the turkey breast and use 4 equally spaced kitchen lengths of kitchen twine to secure the roast well.
  12. In a casserole lay out the parsley, sage and lemon slices to form a bed for the roast.
  13. Rub a tablespoon of olive oil well all over.
  14. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper evenly over the roast.
  15. Pour in the white wine, water (or broth) into the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle olive oil over the liquid.
  16. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the turkey breast reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The temperature will rise to 160 degrees as it rests. (I'm using an off-the-grid organic turkey but if your roasting a supermarket turkey you may want to leave it in the oven longer, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.)
  17. Baste the roast with the pan juices several times during roasting. (Add more wine and water to maintain about an inch of liquid in the casserole.
  18. Remove the breast roll from the pan and loosely cover with foil.
  19. Pour the pan juices through a strainer into a pan. Skim off excess oil.
  20. Keep the pan gravy over very low heat to keep it warm.
  21. After the roast has rested for about 20 minutes, slice it thinly and arrange the spirals on a serving platter.
  22. Pour the pan gravy over the slices. (If you have more gravy, serve it at the table.)
  23. Serve immediately.

 

Warm Italian Potato Salad

Creamy red & gold potatoes bathed with buttery olive oil and mellow red wine vinegar
Creamy red & gold potatoes bathed with buttery olive oil and mellow red wine vinegar

Here’s a twist on potato salad that I’ve loved since I was a kid.

Don’t get me wrong I love potato salad with mayonnaise but every once in a while I have to make this one flavored with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

It’s simple to make and really flavorful. Cube boiled potatoes while they’re still warm. Add chopped parsley and onions, a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper, and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. That’s it.

Creamy potatoes bathed in buttery olive oil, the sweet crunch of onion, all balanced by the red wine vinegar. A simple peasant dish with full and complex flavor.

Serve the potato salad warm or at room temperature. Perfect for any table, inside or out.

Buon appetito!

Italian Potato Salad
 
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A simple potato salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar served warm to enjoy it's full flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound small red or Yukon Gold potato (or use both as I do for color & texture variation)
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ½ small yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil the potatoes until they are knife tender.
  2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle cut them into 2-inch cubes.
  3. Put the potatoes in a bowl along with the other ingredients and mix well to coat the potatoes completely.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Risi e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas

Don’t miss the next recipe video: Subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

Venetian Rice and Spring Peas
Risi e bisi is the perfect first course to celebrate early spring vegetables!

In the run-up to Ash Wednesday earlier this week Venetians ended their 12-day Carnevale celebration. It was their last raucous blow-out before the arrival of Lent and 40-days of fasting.

The traditional festivities and the arrival of the first of the spring vegetables in the market compelled me to make this simple yet elegant rice and spring pea Venetian classic. Wearing my Venetian Pulcinella mask in the kitchen didn’t hurt getting in the mood either.

Risi e bisi is best made early in the spring when the peas are small and sweet. You can make this dish with larger peas later in the season or frozen peas too but it’s at it’s best when those first shiny green pea pods first appear in the market. This is not a risotto it’s a very thick soup.

Vegetarians don’t miss out on this one. Just switch out the beef broth for vegetable broth. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee.

You can eat it with a fork but I prefer a spoon so I get some of the creamy broth in each bite. The slightly firm center of the Arborio rice lends just the right textural balance to the soft, sweet peas. The earthy beef broth adds remarkable flavor depth to the dish. A sprinkle of nutty grated parmigiano and the simple but complex risi e bisi is ready to start your eating celebration.

I love to have risi e bisi as a first course or as a side for fish and meats. And if you have any left over make my suppli al telefono, fried rice balls with a surprise in the center.

Before you go, have a listen to Wynton Marsalis’ Carnival of Venice. I hope you’re inspired. Buon appetito!

Riso e Bisi: Venetian Rice & Spring Peas
 
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Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds fresh unshelled peas
  • 3½ cups beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the butter and when melted add the onions and saute until the onions take on a light golden color.
  2. Add the peas and sea salt to taste and saute for 2 minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add 3½ cups of broth and cook at a rapid simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and parsley and stir. Cover the pot and cook at a rapid simmer until the rice is tender but still firm, about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. The rice and peas should still be a bit soupy. Add a bit more broth if necessary.
  5. Off the heat add the grated parmigiano and stir well into the rice and peas.
  6. Add a grind of black pepper and sea salt if necessary and stir well.
  7. Put the risi e bisi in individual bowls or a large serving bowl, top with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano.
  8. Pass additional grated parmigiano at the table in case your guests want a bit more.

 

Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan

Baked Baby Eggplant

Don’t miss the next recipe video: Subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.
Baked baby eggplant makes a great centerpiece for an antipasti platter.

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 prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can't get 'em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.
I prefer the baby Italian eggplant but if I can’t get ’em Japanese eggplant will do just fine.

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.

If you like eggplant watch me make my favorite dish eggplant parmigiano.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

4.7 from 3 reviews
Baked Baby Eggplant via Japan
 
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Intense creamy baked baby eggplant topped with San Marzano tomatoes, oregano and pecorino.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 4 Italian baby eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand
  • ¼ cup pecorino, grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut off the stem of the Italian baby eggplant and cut each in half. (If you're using Japanese eggplant, cut off most of the narrow neck.)
  3. Lightly score the top of the eggplant on the diagonal in both directions to form diamonds.
  4. Put the eggplant in a single layer in a baking dish cut side up.
  5. Drizzle each half generously with EVOO.
  6. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  7. Evenly distribute the crushed tomato on top of each half.
  8. Sprinkle the oregano on top of the crushed tomato.
  9. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly on each half.
  10. Pour the water in the bottom of the baking dish.
  11. Add some olive oil and tomatoes to the water. (This will make a pan sauce to put over the eggplant before you serve them.)
  12. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil.
  13. Bake until the eggplant are knife tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  15. Uncover the pan and bake until the pecorino is lightly browned and the eggplant start to collapse in on themselves, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  16. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  17. Serves 4-6

 

Food, Family & Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

 

Suppli al telefono: Fried Arborio Rice Balls Video

Suppli al Telefono
Suppli al Telefono

We had fun in the Cookhouse kitchen in North Beach. I was still on this kick cooking the food of Roma and Napoli so I could get in the groove for an upcoming trip to those cities. Stay tuned for some episodes we shot in Italia!

Suppli are tasty egg-shaped fried rice balls. The surprise in the middle give them their name.

You may know these as arancini. They remind Sicilians of oranges. But in Rome, they’re called suppli al telefono for the telephone lines formed when you bite into melted mozzarella at the center.

The rice inside the crispy crust is flavored by a thick flavorful tomato-meat sauce. The best bite is when you hit the oozing mozzarella telephone lines in the center.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Suppli--Fried Arborio Rice Balls
 
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Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • For the tomato/meat mixture:
  • 1½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ pound ground lean beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups passato di pomodoro or tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • For the rice:
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • For the breadcrumb coating:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into rectangles the size and shape of large sugar cubes (about 24 pieces)
  • Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, for deep-frying
Instructions
  1. To make the tomato mixture:
  2. In a small bowl, combine the mushrooms with warm water to cover and let stand for 15 minutes to rehydrate. Drain, squeeze out the excess liquid and chop finely.
  3. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the beef, onion and mushrooms and sauté until the meat is no longer red, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato puree and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced by about one-third, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  5. To make the rice:
  6. Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a rapid boil over high heat.
  7. Add the 1 tablespoon of sea salt and the rice and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the rice has softened but is still al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the rice and spread it out on a large platter or roasting pan to cool slightly.
  8. When cool put the rice in a bowl and add the eggs, butter, parmigiano, a pinch of salt and the tomato mixture. Mix to combine well. Let cool to room temperature.
  9. To form the croquettes:
  10. Whisk the egg in a small, shallow bowl.
  11. Pour the flour into a second shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.
  12. Using a spoon or your hands, scoop up some rice and with your hand form into a ball the size and shape of an egg to make the suppli.
  13. With your finger, make an indentation in the side of the suppli, insert a piece of the mozzarella deep into the center and close the rice around it.
  14. Roll the suppli in the flour to lightly cover all over, then the beaten egg coating it all over, and then roll in the bread crumbs, again coating evenly.
  15. Place the ball on a large, flat plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining rice and cheese, evenly coating each suppli.
  16. When all the suppli are formed, cover the plate and refrigerate the suppli for at least 1 hour or up to overnight before cooking.
  17. Preheat an oven to 200°F. You can keep the suppli warm on a sheet pan in the oven as you cook them.
  18. To cook the suppli:
  19. In a heavy saucepan or deep, heavy fry pan, pour in olive oil to a depth of at least 2 inches and over medium-high heat the oil until a bit of rice dropped into the hot oil sizzles immediately on contact.
  20. Working in batches, fry the supply, turning as needed to color evenly, until they are a deep sunburned color and have a nice crisp crust, 5 to 7 minutes.
  21. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain, then transfer to the platter in the oven while you fry the remaining croquettes.
  22. Serve the croquettes while the mozzarella core is still hot. They may be eaten with a knife and fork, but for the traditional telephone-cord effect, they should be eaten by hand so the telephone line forms as you bite into the mozzarella center.
  23. Makes about 24 croquettes.

 

St. Joseph’s Day Is Coming! Make Zeppole

The dessert of Italian Father's Day.

March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day, also Father’s Day in Italy. It’s the time of year to make a special sweet, Zeppole di San Giuseppe. You find zeppole all over Italia this time of year.

Each region makes them in their own way. In North Beach they make small donuts from the north of Italia filled with a lemon-scented custard. Mine are the bigger version made in Naples and the surrounding region of Campania. The light pastries are fried or baked and then filled with a cooked creamy custard topped with a sour cherry in syrup called Amerena. (You can get Amerena cherries at Molinari on Columbus or at Amazon and other online sites.)

Zeppole are a traditional part of the feast day celebration. They are a fitting tribute to St. Joseph who is also the patron saint of pastry makers and they are delicious. Zeppole are fun to make and really not that difficult. You can make them too.  Just watch my Zeppole di San Giuseppe episode to see how.

I was at Caffe Di Lillo in the Arthur Avenue area of the Bronx last month. Arthur Avenue is New York City’s Real Little Italy, a compact area loaded with Italian bakeries and markets. The Di Lillo folks were making Zeppole di San Giuseppe a little bit early. I broke my rule only to eat the zeppole once a year on the Saint’s Day. I couldn’t help myself. We bought a half-dozen to end the meal we would cook up in Jersey later that day. Di Lillo’s zeppole were as good as I’ve had in Naples.

If you don’t make Zeppole di San Giuseppe for yourself you can find them at pastry shops in Italian neighborhoods everywhere. Not that long ago you could get 3 different versions of zeppole in North Beach. Now there’s just one bakery that still makes them. Here in North Beach head to Victoria Pastry on the corner of Stockton and Vallejo. If you want to be sure to get some place your order this week. They sell out fast.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day! Eat zeppole!

Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs

Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs
Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs
Chicken and Escarole Soup with Veal Meatballs

Also known as Italian wedding soup, chicken and escarole soup is an Italian-American classic. The addition of the little savory veal meatballs make this soup special. It’s a staple at Italian wedding receptions and hence the moniker Italian Wedding Soup.

But you don’t have to wait for a wedding to enjoy this bowl of goodness. Monday was soup night when I was growing up and my mother made this soup often. My family continues the tradition to this day. I like to dunk crusty Italian bread in the broth. My father liked to break chunks of day-old bread into his bowl to soak up the broth.

The soup I make here is a rustic version. You can make it more refined by cutting the vegetables into a smaller dice and make the meatballs even smaller. I always saute the vegetables in EVOO before adding the water. This method intensifies the flavor they add to the soup.

I’m not a dark meat fan but if you are use chicken thighs or legs in addition to or in place of the breasts. Be sure to skim off all the fat from the chicken and meatballs when the soup is done cooking.

Finish each bowl of soup with a good finishing extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of grated pecorino, parmigiano or grana padano before serving.

So make Italian Wedding Soup your way. It’s quick and easy. You can make it in less than an hour.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:88]

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]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:79]

 

A North Beach Treasure Lost

Pulcinella Wares For Sale

I heard it on the street Thursday when I returned to the Village from a few days on the Sonoma Coast – Pulcinella is closing. I’m in mourning. We’re losing another North Beach treasure. Our Neapolitan hosts were passionate about the food of Naples. Pulcinella cooked up great street food, fried antipasti treats, true Neapolitan pizza and pastas. The passing of Pulcinella reminds me to be passionate about supporting what’s left of North Beach before it’s all gone. It happened in New York City, Chicago, Newark. Once vibrant Italian neighborhoods all over America have disappeared.

I cringed when I saw the Chronicle’s Inside Scoop post. Its harsh cynicism brought a tear to my eye.

Mauro, Dario and Fabio did a great job and we will miss them dearly. I caught up with Mauro today to wish him buona fortuna and to say good-bye. The pizzeria’s owner in Naples is ill and decided to close this San Francisco outpost. Pulcinella had a good run. I’m happy the boys from Napoli were with us for the last couple of years.

Here’s how I’ll remember Pulcinella:

Hotness Challenge – Macaroni with a Baby Back Rib Sauce

Make it hot with Calabrian pepper oil.

I’ve been thinking about this maccheroni con sugo di crostate di maiale (macaroni with a pork baby back rib sauce) since NoodleFest, the NorthBeach/Chinatown outdoor eating event last May. Right near the stage where I was demonstrating how to make fresh pasta dough about 20 NB restaurants had booths where they served up tastes of their favorite pasta. In between demonstrations I ran over to the closest booth. There I met Francesco who owns the Calabrian restaurant Vicoletto (Green between Columbus/Grant). He was serving fresh tagliatelle with a pork riblette sugo.

“You like hot?,” he asked. When I said yes he finished my serving with a sprinkle of grated pecorino and a few drops of a golden red olive oil from a gallon jar of hot peppers. Sweet tomato sauce,  meat falling off the ribs, the silky fresh pasta, it was heaven. But the heat and mellow flavor from the pepper oil really set this pasta apart. This is my version of Franceso’s dish.

Calabrians love hot peppers that make their food zesty and memorable. So here’s the challenge. How many drops of the hot pepper oil on top of your dish of pasta are enough for you? If you’re not into hot–no worries–this is a delicious sauce without the chili oil. I don’t think Calabrians would mind too much!

Eat one of the peppers if you’re brave enough. I love them but sometimes I need to have a hunk of bread nearby to put out the flame! The peppers are a great addition to an antipasti platter. Just warn your tablemates.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:29]

 

Friday Recipe: Belly-Button Ricotta Gnocchi in a Sage Burnt Butter Sauce


Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage Burnt Butter Sauce

The rising popularity of the potato gnocchi video prompted me to share a simpler gnocchi recipe using ricotta to make the dough instead of potato.

Ricotta gnocchi are quicker to make and lighter than the potato version. The dough is ready in a jiffy and the sauce is finished as the gnocchi boil. I love these little soft pillows. Sometimes I give them a light finger poke to create a little “belly-button” on one side to ensure they’ll cook evenly.

The dough and ricotta gnocchi are made using the same methods as in my potato gnocchi recipe. Watch that if you want a visual of how to make gnocchi. The sauces in that episode go well with ricotta gnocchi too.

I reached up to northern Italy for the sage burnt butter sauce. You see it in Tuscany and the Veneto. This is a great sauce to add to your repertoire. It pairs well with gnocchi and other fresh pasta to create a full-flavored but delicate dish.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:42]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:43]

10 for 1 – Super Versatile Scallopine

This might be one of the most versatile recipes ever.

I’m not great at math so I may need your help.

I promised 10 dishes from this recipe. I think I short-changed you. After my video proclamation I recalculated and I think there are 16 permutations–16 dishes, probably even more. Wow, lucky you!

Here’s the calculation:

You can use one of 4 meats. You can use one of 2 herbs. You can use one of 2 cheeses. 4X2X2=16. Right? Actually, there are probably more. For example mix mozzarella and fontina and that’s recipe #17. Leave out the prosciutto and that’s recipe #18. So on and so forth…

Enough. You do the math.Here’s the recipe.

My current favorites are the Scallopine alla Sorrentina (veal, prosciutto, roasted eggplant, basil, fresh mozzarella) and the Scallopine alla Bolognese (veal, prosciutto, fresh sage, fontina). The Sorrentina with the eggplant probably doesn’t need any contorni (sides)–the Bolognese without the eggplant may. Roasted potatoes and Swiss Chard or escarole sauteed in EVOO with garlic would be nice.

The cooking directions are exactly the same for all of the recipe permutations. You saute the meat and make the sauce in the same pan. Then you bake the scallopine in the oven with the pan sauce. Only the ingredients and combinations you choose may vary not the sauce nor the cooking methods.

This reciped serves 4. If you have scallopine the size I used in the video this recipe you may want to serve 2 as a portion.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:28]

10 Minute Mussels & Clams

I eat this dish a lot when I’m in Naples, Capri or the Amalfi Coast in the summertime. These quickly steamed cozze e vongole (mussels and clams) are just out of the Bay of Naples, pristine and briny. I like a bowl of them swimming in their broth with a grilled slice of ciabatta rubbed with garlic for dipping. I like them in a pasta sauce served over linguine or spaghetti. I like them red or white and I like them spicy hot or not.

Here’s a basic recipe from Campania that you can have as I make it here and eat in 10 minutes or you can take it in at least a dozen other directions!

My clams and mussels love to eat polenta. As they ingest the polenta it helps clean out any sand inside the shell. I buy them from my fishmonger on the day I cook them. At home I scrub them well and put them in a salty bath sprinkled with polenta. I keep them in the fridge until the pan is ready for them.

Don’t mess with these beauties from the sea. Steam them quickly. Take them out as soon as they open and eat them immediately.

Some variations on this basic recipe, including pasta sauces, are at the end of the recipe below.

Welcome to the Bay of Naples. Buon appetito.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:36]

 

 

My Favorite Dish – Eggplant Parmigiana

My favorite dish in the world.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana) – the dish I cut my teeth on. Loved it then, love it now, and make it often. Imagine perfection: the golden eggplant sauteed in a tasty egg wash, baked in the oven with tangy concentrated tomato sauce, sweet basil, creamy melted mozzarella, with a nutty parmigiana reggiano crust. It’s my favorite dish, rich and satisfying; it can keep a man alive for days.

Of course that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to possess eggplant parmigiana left overs after your meal is done. Because it actually tastes better the next day after some overnight magic melding of flavors. If you’re the preserving type, consider portioning your left-overs and freezing. Impress the unexpected and unsuspecting dinner guest with tomorrow’s eggplant parmigiana or satiate yourself on a night when there’s just nothing else to eat. Or, mix it up a bit. Eggplant parmigiana makes a great panino (sandwich) especially with a soft, chewy bread like ciabatta for tomorrow’s lunch. The possibilities are endless.

I often serve the melanzane alla parmigiana with roasted sausage. A simple arugula salad with EVOO and wine vinegar is a great accompaniment. I put the salad on the table and my guests can have it with the eggplant and sausage or as a separate following course.

Can’t talk about Eggplant Parmigiana without debating breadcrumbs. I often fry eggplant coated with breadcrumbs. Those crunchy slices are delicious and can be used in many dishes but I just don’t recommend using a breadcrumb coating in this recipe. You risk crisp and crunchy for soggy, a dangerous detraction from the dish. Mother made it best. She always does.

But I pass on to you the delicious, the dynamic, the perfect left-over, Eggplant Parmigiana.

For the Sauce

Ingredients

2-tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (Ba-Boom)
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, any peel or stems removed
1 sprig fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1-teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Put a pot over medium-high heat.
Add the olive oil and the garlic
Saute the garlic for about a minute in the hot oil
Add the tomatoes, basil and oregano to the pot, stir well
Put the lid ajar on the pot and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens and has reduced by about about a quarter in volume

For the Eggplant

Ingredients

1 large eggplant
2-tablespoons sea salt (to drain the bitter liquid from the eggplant)
1 cup flour for dusting the eggplant
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 pound fresh mozzarella sliced thin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or if using only olive oil, 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons canola or your favorite oil
10 basil leaves, or more as needed

Directions

Remove both ends of the eggplant
Cut the eggplant in about 1-inch slices
Sprinkle salt on both sides of the slices and line them in colander, put it in the sink as the bitter dark liquid drains
Wash the slices well and pat dry.
In a bowl, add the eggs, pecorino, parsley, salt and black pepper and beat well
Put a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil to the pan and bring it to a ripple
Put the flour in a bowl and lightly flour the eggplant slices
Dip the slices in the egg wash and coat well
Fry the eggplant until both sides are golden brown
Remove to a platter lined with paper towel
Continue frying the eggplant and add more oil as needed.

Assembly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
In a large baking dish, spread some sauce on the bottom
Add a single layer of the fried eggplant slice (save the best slices for the top layer)
Put a dollop of sauce on top of each slice
Rip the basil leaves and add a piece on top of each slice
Liberally sprinkle the grated parmigiano all over
Repeat this process until all the eggplant is layered in the dish
For the top layer add the mozzarella and then sprinkle of grated parmigiana all over
Bake the eggplant for 20-30 minutes or until the top begins to turn golden brown
Serve immediately or at room temperature