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Italian Free-Form Apple Tart (Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana)


Italian Apple Crostata

I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pasta frolla:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Apple filling:

3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt

For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.

For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.

making the crostata

Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.

Cut rolled pasta dough

Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.

Making the lattice crust

Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.

Making the tart dough edge

Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.

Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.

Italian Free Form Apple Tart

Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.

*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.

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Big Pot ‘o Goodness: Pasta Fagioli


Pasta Fagioli

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do in the Winter – there’s something comforting about the delightful smells that warm up my apartment on a cold, dreary day. Pasta Fagioli is an Italian soup made with herbs, beans, pasta, tomatoes, garlic and broth, topped off with some fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And it’s easy to make too – just throw all the ingredients in a large soup pot and cook it slow and low for an hour or so. The end result is a big pot ‘o goodness to warm up your toes.

Pasta Fagioli

Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 pound pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
1 spring rosemary
2-3 springs fresh thyme
cheesecloth, for rosemary and thyme herb sachet
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pound ditalini pasta (or any short-tube pasta)
Basil leaves, torn for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
Extra olive oil, for drizzling

Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and add pancetta. Bring to a medium heat and cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp, 4-5 minutes. Toss in the onion and season with salt and red pepper; cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken broth, rosemary and thyme sprigs (in cheesecloth sachet), season with salt and black pepper, and bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the herbs sachet and discard.

Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta two-thirds of the way until it is still fairly hard in the center. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta and cooking water to the pot with the tomatoes and the beans and continue to cook until the pasta is done, another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with some torn basil leaves, grated Parmigiano cheese and drizzle with some extra olive oil for garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell, Cook Like a Rock Star

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad


Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peaches. There’s something so satisfying about biting into the sweet, juicy flesh that quenches the thirst for a cool and refreshing treat in the summertime.

Peaches

Peaches

Even the perfectly round shape, bright peachy red and fuzzy exterior gives it a heavenly appeal.

Peach Still Life

Peach Still Life

Almost too pretty to eat.

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

This recipe pairs white peaches with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella in a tangy sweet vinaigrette. It’s refreshing and light and the salty prosciutto paired with the cool, mild mozzarella and sweet peaches is a combination to die for. You can also substitute the mozzarella with Ricotta Salata (fresh ricotta) or Feta Cheese, and add some sliced or slivered almonds for crunch if you like. Serve this salad with some crusty bread and a glass of white wine – perfect for a lunch or dinner side salad with an Italian dish.

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients:

1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 head leafy green lettuce
2 large white peaches, sliced into wedges
½ red onion, sliced paper thin
3-4 slices prosciutto, sliced thin and torn into pieces
3 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded into pieces

Dressing:

Combine lemon juice, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly, until vinaigrette is mixed thoroughly and doesn’t separate.

Salad: 

Combine lettuce and peach wedges in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.

Arrange salad on serving dish or in individual bowls and top with prosciutto, red onion and mozzarella cheese. Top with freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve with crusty bread and a glass of white wine (Reisling or Chardonnay pairs well).

Serves 4.

Lovely Peaches

Lovely Peaches

Other Peach Recipes you may enjoy:

Grilled Chicken and Peach Salad

Oprah’s Summer Peach Salad

Paula Deen’s Grilled Peach Salad

Roasted Beet, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

Meet the Chef: Jimmy Canora of Valentino’s on the Green


Watch the video as Kristen Hess interviews Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Canora at Valentino’s on the Green – the legendary fine dining Italian restaurant in Bayside Queens. The Chef demonstrates his infamous dish Chicken Breast Valentino with Creamy Polenta, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Spring Vegetables and Madeira Wine Sauce and discusses his background and history as a Chef and Cookbook Author.

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino's on the Green

Valentino’s on the Green is a romantic fine dining Italian restaurant in a beautiful old mansion in a neighborhood rich in history, culture and style. This elegant establishment pays homage to Italian-born silent film legend and former resident, Rudolph Valentino. Valentino was America’s first sex symbol derived from his provocative roles in films such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921). He helped launch the new era of film and film stars and was one of the most iconic figures of Hollywood. Valentino’s on the Green combines this romantic history and Italian culinary expertise into a one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Giorgio Kolaj & Don Pintabona

Headed by restaurateur Giorgio Kolaj, and renowned chef and cookbook author, Don Pintabona, who helped Robert DeNiro launch Tribeca Grill in NYC, Pintabona has served as Executive Chef for over a decade. Jimmy Canora, an award-winning chef, also formerly of Tribeca Grill and Delmonico’s; has brought his culinary mastery to Valentino’s on the Green and created an exceptional menu for this gorgeous historical landmark.

Valentino's interior

Valentino's interior

Valentino’s on the Green has several dining rooms inside elegantly furnished with chandeliers, grand mouldings, burgundy leather and mahogany furnishings and large windows. They have a gorgeous outside patio for dining in the warmer months, overlooking a golf course and beautiful park. They serve lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays and have a spectacular dessert menu as well as a special Mother’s Day brunch annually. Reservations are accepted for private parties in the banquet hall with space for up to 220 guests, and catering is also available.

Start your meal with an Appetizer of fresh seafood including Shrimp or Crabmeat Cocktail, Grilled Octopus and Oysters or an Antipasti platter, soup or salad. Their Pasta is fresh made daily – Braised Short Rib Ragu with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta and Rosemary and Sweet Pea Mascarpone Ravioli or Lemon Tagliatelle Frutti Di Mare are just a few of their popular selections.

For Main Course, Valentino’s offers classic entrees such as Veal Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Shrimp Scampi, Grilled Swordfish, Herb Crusted Lamb Chops, Steaks, Pork Braciole “Valdostana”, and their infamous Chicken Breast Valentino, stuffed with Fontina Cheese, Prosciutto and Spinach cooked in a buttery Madeira wine sauce with mushrooms and served with luscious creamy polenta and grilled Spring vegetables (recipe below). Last but not least they have an amazing dish of Spicy Chili Glazed Lobsters, with Spring Onion and Bay Scallop Risotto, Asparagus and Brandied Lobster Sauce that is out of this world.

Appetizers range from $8-29, Soups and Salads range from $7-$13 and Dinner Entrees range from $16-49. They offer a $24 Three Course Lunch Prix Fixe and Mother’s Day Brunches run at $49.50 per person. Reservations are accepted and recommended via phone or OpenTable.com.

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino

Chicken Breast Valentino

Ingredients

6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded ¼” thin
1 c Seasoned all purpose flour
¼ c unsalted butter
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ c Madeira wine
1 c chicken stock, as needed
1 c veal stock, or low sodium beef broth, as needed
6 slices Prosciutto Di Parma, thinly sliced
6 slices Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Parmiagiano Reggiano, grated
6 fresh Sage leaves
1 c cooked mixed mushrooms, (Oyster, Portabella, Crimini & Shitake)
1 small leek, white part only, diced and blanched
2 c cooked polenta, (Mascarpone, Parmesan, Chicken stock, Cream)
2 c roasted Spring veggies (baby zucchini, patty pan squash & baby carrots)
¼ c fresh chopped parsley, garnish
6 springs fresh thyme, garnish

Method

Season and lightly flour chicken breasts, shaking off excess flour.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil/butter, 2 tbsp at a time and when butter starts to foam, add the chicken breasts in batches, sauté until lightly browned about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside, and repeat until all chicken is cooked.

Increase the heat and add the mushrooms and leeks and sauté until the release of their liquid and start to crisp, about 1 minute, then add the Madeira wine and simmer to reduce to ¼, adding in the stock along with some more butter, salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to very low and top each chicken breast with a slice of prosciutto, sage, Fontina and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Return to the skillet until the cheese melts and chicken is warmed through.

Serve with hot polenta and roasted Spring vegetables and sauce each plate with the Madeira Mushroom sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a spring of fresh thyme for garnish.

Serves 6.

View the Menu

Valentino’s on the Green
201-10 Cross Island Parkway
Bayside, New York 11360
718 352 2300
www.valentinosnyc.com

Meet the Chef: An interview with Chef Andrew Whitney, dell’anima


Watch the video of a behind the scenes interview with myself and Andrew Whitney, Chef de Cuisine at dell’anima, a charming and popular Italian trattoria located in Greenwich Village, NYC, as he talks about his culinary background and shows how to prep his signature dish, “Chicken Diablo”.

dell’anima, meaning “of the soul” in Italian, is an upscale, intimate Italian restaurant opened by Gabe Thompson of Del Posto, and Joe Campanale of Babbo in 2007. The open kitchen is a cool feature of the space, set right behind the bar and dining room with full view of their Chefs cooking in action. The artwork and photography on the walls is created by Partner and Photographer Jamie Tiampo.

The menu is elegant and hearty, featuring a variety of unique Italian pasta dishes and grilled vegetables, a bruschetta bar, antipasti and salads, seafood, chicken and steak dishes and a offers a robust Italian wine selection. Having gained status as 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant ®, dell’anima uses mainly local and sustainable ingredients and buys from local food producers.

Rustic dishes with a Tuscan influence are the focus of their cuisine. Most entrees, pastas and salads are infused or served with fresh grilled vegetables, herbs and spices in unique combinations to stir up the palate. Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu, Sweetbreads with sunchoke puree, rhubarb and scallion, and Charred Octopus with rice beans, chorizo and chicories are just a few of their unique dishes that set them apart from the traditional Italian places in New York. Always delicious and standard fine cuisine prices for New York standards at $16-30 for pasta and entrees, $10-18 for antipasti and bruschette for $5-15.

View the Menu

dell’anima restaurant
38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014
212.366.6633
www.dellanima.com 

Ecco La Cucina: An Interview with Tuscan Chef Gina Stipo


Gina Stipo at Ecco la Cucina, Tuscany

Gina Stipo at Ecco la Cucina, Tuscany

I recently took a Tuscan cooking class with Chef Gina Stipo at ICE in New York, and immediately fell in love with her rustic Tuscan recipes, her passionate, hands-on teaching approach and cooking philosophy; centered around fresh, seasonal produce and local ingredients from Tuscany. We learned the basics of Tuscan cooking, local ingredients, cheeses and wines, and a little bit about Gina’s culinary training. She explained Italian culture and ways of cooking, and we made some really delicious food which we thoroughly enjoyed at the end of the evening.

Pecorino Flan, Kristen making Gnocchi, Artichokes and Lemon

Pecorino Flan, Kristen making Gnocchi, Artichokes and Lemon

For starters, we made a savory Pecorino Flan, served with roasted pears and arugula and paired with a crisp, white Tuscan wine to complement the tangy cheese. We made fresh homemade potato gnocchi from scratch, along with two savory, simple cream sauces – one with fresh crumbled gorgonzola, onion and sage, another with walnuts, butter and parmesan.

For the Roasted Chicken dish, Gina demonstrated the ‘Tuscan’ way of cutting up a whole chicken (with a large pair of kitchen shears), then she threw it gently into a roasting pan along with our fresh trimmed artichokes, lemons, garlic, rosemary and sage and put it in the oven for awhile until it was crispy and browned. For dessert, we savored a light and fruity Strawberry Semifreddo drizzled with melted dark chocolate – straight from the heavens above!

Gina's Cooking Class, Ecco la Cucina Cookbook

Ginas Cooking Class, Ecco la Cucina Cookbook

In my interview with Gina, she discusses her culinary training and background and cookbook Ecco La Cucina, (“Here’s the Kitchen”). Having lived and trained in Italy, Gina specializes in Italian cuisine primarily from the Tuscany region. She also does personalized food and wine tours in Tuscany and around Italy, and offers hands-on cooking classes held on the rural estate of Spannocchia, south of Siena, focusing on Tuscan cuisine and wines. Gina is truly passionate about her work and has found her place in the culinary world. She’s truly an inspiration, and a talented Chef and cooking instructor… Read my personal interview with Gina below to find out more about her culinary training and career, cooking philosophy, her cookbook and a few of the recipes from our class.

Can you tell me a little bit about your culinary and professional career background?

I feel as if my life has always been food focused, I have so many early memories of different foods I loved.  Growing up in an Italian family, meals were very important.  We celebrated with food, we made special trips to buy the right ingredients, and we ate together as a family.  When I was six years old we moved to Italy for four years and the beauty of the country, the food that is such an integral part of their lives, made an indelible mark on me that formed a basis for the way I relate to both the beauty of my surroundings and food. I have been studying food all my life but made a career change when I was in my late 30’s to focus on food professionally.  I came into a little money and I used it all to go travel in Italy and study their cuisine.

When did you realize you wanted to be a professional chef and cooking instructor? Who inspired you most as a young cook? What did you learn from them?

For a long time as a young adult my dream was to live in New York City and go to culinary school but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.  I lived that dream when I was in my late 30’s and then worked in restaurants for several years to gain experience, but I still hadn’t found my niche.  In 2000, some friends who own an estate in Tuscany asked me if I would come and do some classes for their guests.  I set up cooking classes and found that I’m really good at it, that my innate curiosity and constant study of the subject before I went to culinary school had given me a lot of information that people are interested in.

My mother inspired me as a young cook, she has a curious nature and was always buying strange things in the market and figuring out how to cook them or eat them.  The Italian food of my father’s family inspired me.  From my mother I learned curiosity and openness, from my grandmother and aunts I learned the importance of freshness and respecting your ingredients.

Can you tell us about your training at the Institute of Culinary Education as well as abroad in Italy? How were you trained and what was that like? What was your first job as a professional cook and what was that like?

I loved going to ICE, spending every day surrounded by food and talking about it; I got extra bonus points on tests, joyously studied and constantly felt thrilled to be learning and surrounded by people interested in food.  I learned that I love the technique and precision of beautiful desserts and enjoy making them perfectly.

I also trained in Italy, at a school in Bologna as well as by talking to little old people and home cooks about their food and cooking with them in the kitchen.  It’s important to have an open mind and realize that, no matter what you’ve studied or for how long, you don’t know it all, there’s always something new to learn.

How did you get started doing food and wine tours in Italy and can you tell us a little bit more about that?

After I started doing classes for the estate in Tuscany I hit upon the idea of doing a tour for their guests and taking them around the area to great restaurants and wineries, sharing with them the intricacies of the regional foods.  That grew a little every year.  Meanwhile I did single day classes for people who come to Tuscany.  In 2005 my sister came to work with me and is my partner in the States, coordinating the weeklong tours and coming to Italy when we have a group.

Can you tell us a little bit about your cooking style and what makes your cookbook and cooking classes unique?

I would say what sets my cooking apart is knowledge and respect for the ingredients, for the way the dishes developed and evolved.  My cooking style is simple, I don’t believe in making it complicated or scaring people away from food; I want them to have the same acceptance and understanding of the importance of it as an integral part of their lives.  While I enjoy entertaining with stories, my focus is on education, not on reinventing the wheel or making a dish so complicated it takes the joy out of cooking.

Tell us about your cookbook Ecco La Cucina, and what inspired you to write this?

My cookbook is a simple compilation of the recipes we use in my area of Tuscany and was put together by the requests of many of my students.  I put a spiral binder on the first several printings because i want people to be able to use it in the kitchen, not fight with it to get it to stay on the page.  It’s all about making it friendly and comfortable, like Italian cooking should be.

In your opinion, what are the most important elements when creating a recipe from scratch?

There are two questions there:  a recipe from scratch or a dish from scratch.  I do both.

When I went to Italy I worked with an Italian woman who was the cook on the estate.  The owners wanted someone to write down her recipes in English because they had so many requests from their guests.  It hadn’t been done before because she didn’t use recipes, she just cooked.  I worked with her for two months and watched her and learned a lot and wrote the recipes down into a saleable cookbook for the estate.  That exercise helped tremendously when I moved to Italy and traveled around learning about the cuisine and how the dishes were made and allowed me to write my own cookbook years later.

When making a dish from scratch it’s most important to understand the science of cooking; the why and how to make a dish taste good.  There are certain basics in cooking and if you understand those you can create authentic dishes.   But those basics can be different depending on the cuisine.  Indian food is put together differently than Chinese, which is different than French.  The fun thing is learning all of that and making great authentic food!

What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?

There is my grandmother’s special baked lobster that’s a family favorite and has become my signature dish among friends.  You have to have the courage to kill the lobster and it’s stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs, garlic and drizzled with olive oil, baked and then served on top of thin spaghetti.  It’s fabulous!

What is your favorite spice to cook with and why?

I just did a series of classes on spices used in Italian cooking .  I am crazy about salt and talk a lot about the importance of using unprocessed sea salt, but I don’t think I have one particular spice I like to cook with.  I’m against the constant use of black pepper in absolutely everything without thinking of whether it adds anything good to the dish or whether you even like it.  I love making Indian food for all the wonderful spices there are and adore the smell of cloves, but really in Tuscan cooking we use more herbs than anything because they were free for the peasants, whereas spices cost a lot of money.

What is the most underrated ingredient in your opinion?

Freshness and the seasonality of food.  When you get a vegetable or fruit that is grown in season and is allowed to ripen before picking, there really isn’t much else you have to do to it but eat it.  And by using seasonal ingredients that are local and fresh your dish is elevated before you even begin.

As a professional chef, what was your funniest kitchen incident?

My first job as a professional was in a very hot, very small kitchen at an excellent French bistro in Atlanta.  I was garde manger until I got promoted to the grill.  The first day I was there it was 95 degrees outside and too hot in the kitchen for chef coats so we all wore our favorite t-shirts and ball caps.  After 10 minutes sweat was already trickling down my back and stomach so when the owner asked me if I thought they should turn on the air conditioning in the kitchen, I answered YES!  Everyone laughed because it was a joke they always played on new crew: there wasn’t any air conditioning in the kitchen and, to make it worse, if you kept the kitchen doors open it pulled the air conditioning from the dining room and the guests would be too hot.  I loved how tough you had to be to make it through your shift and the camaraderie you have with the other cooks, like surviving under fire.

When cooking at home, what do you like to prepare for yourself?

Sometimes I like to make complicated braised dishes that take all day, but when I’m hungry I’ll make myself a big fresh chopped salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, blue cheese and grapes.  Or cook up a batch of fried chicken or rabbit.  But I’ve been known to make dinner a bottle of red wine and a bowl of buttered popcorn!

What is your favorite cooking gadget or kitchen item you can’t live without and why?

I really love a decent rubber spatula and a microplane, but I tend to travel with my own special paring knives.

What 5 cookbooks would you recommend every home cook own?

That’s hard because I’m not a big fan of cookbooks, I prefer to read food history or food science.  But the Joy of Cooking is a go-to book in my kitchen for all those traditional recipes that no one knows by heart, plus the original Betty Crocker book from my childhood is great for straightforward American desserts and a bit of nostalgia.   The Greens cookbook from The Greens Restaurant in San Francisco is my all-time favorite book, it’s all vegetarian cooking and every recipe in there is amazing, yet simple.  The Essentials of Italian Cuisine by Marcella Hazan is also an excellent reference book.  My new favorite is by an Italian, Giorgio Locatelli who owns a restaurant in London; his book “Made in Italy” is a wonderful read and a great learning tool

Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs and home cooks?

For aspiring chefs:  respect your ingredients and spend time learning in depth a cuisine rather than trying to reinvent something you don’t understand.

For home cooks:  Don’t be afraid and don’t let them confuse you with complications.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

I’ve really enjoyed living in Italy, studying the foods of the regions and getting to know the people who make the food and preserve the roots of their cuisine.  I love being able to share that with visitors and help them to better understand Italy, to build memories and enjoy their vacation.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

2 lbs red skinned potatoes
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
Salt

Preparation

Bring potatoes to a boil in salted water until cooked through, being careful not to cook too much or they become water logged. A fork should enter easily with no hard center. Peel and then put through a ricer onto your work surface. Make a well and add the egg and half of the flour and work until incorporated and evenly mixed, adding the rest of the flour as you go. Knead the dough until its just pulled together and you don’t see tiny potato pieces. Try not to overwork the dough. Form into logs, cut off half-inch sized pieces and roll them on a gnocchi board or fork.

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Gorgonzola Sauce

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
6-8 fresh sage leaves
8 oz gorgonzola cheese
½ cup cream
Fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste

Preparation

Saute the onion in butter until soft, add sage leaves and continue to cook gently without browning. Add gorgonzola and cook over low heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Add cream and heat through, being careful not to boil. Season with ground pepper and check for salt; some cheese is saltier than others. Serve over homemade potato gnocchi and top with some fresh ground Parmigiana cheese as garnish.

Walnut Cream Sauce

Walnut Cream Sauce

Sugo di Noci (Walnut Cream Sauce)

1 cup walnuts, chopped fine
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
White pepper, ground
Salt

Preparation

Put the cream, walnuts, Parmigiano, and butter in a saucepan and heat. Salt and pepper to taste; bring to a simmer and then turn off heat. Allow to remain hot until pasta is cooked, then toss and serve with a sprinkling of more Parmigiano and finely chopped parsley. Because gnocchi or pasta continues to absorb liquid, you will need to save some of the pasta water to add when you toss the pasta, as it may seem dry. Serve over homemade potato gnocchi and top with some fresh grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese as garnish.

Strawberry Semifreddo

Strawberry Semifreddo

Strawberry Semifreddo

1 cup sugar
3 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
6 egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 pint whipping cream
Dark chocolate, melted
Strawberries for garnish, whole

Preparation

Combine the first cup of sugar together with chopped strawberries and lemon juice and bring to a boil, allowing to cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take it off the heat and cool completely.

Whip the egg whites with ½ cup sugar until stiff, then whip the cream. Fold together with the cooled syrup.

Spread the semifreddo in a pan, or into individual cups, and freeze until set. To serve, allow it to sit at room temperature 10 minutes then either slice or invert onto plates. Serve with fresh strawberries and chocolate drizzled on top.

To find out more about Gina, her cookbook and Italian culinary tours, visit www.EccoLaCucina.com

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta


A Classic Italian Dinner

The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.

We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!

We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu and topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese and Handmade Tagliatelle

Makes 2 cups; serves 6

1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor

1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor

½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor

¾ pound lean ground beef

½ cup dry white wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 ½ cups milk

2 tbsp heavy cream

Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste

Homemade Tagliatelle (recipe follows)

Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.

Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).

Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.

Bolognese Ragu

Simmering Bolognese Ragu

Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.

Homemade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil

Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.

Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.

Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut dough into quarters.

Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.

Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).

Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).

Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.

Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.

Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!

Serves 6.

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Focaccia

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Dough

2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast

1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes

2 c warm water

½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

5 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

¼ c extra-virgin olive oil

¼ c water

Toppings

2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

½ c thinly sliced onions

½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives

½ c grated Pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.

Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.

Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided

1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin

1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided

7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided

2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)

2/3 c. heavy whipping cream

½ tsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)

Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.

Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.

Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.

Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.

Recipe from Bon Appetit, January 2011.

A Taste of Tuscany


Essentials of Tuscan Cooking

Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany (Toscana) is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy.

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.

Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine

Risotto:

3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli

Minestrone

Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

Throwdown! A Quest for the Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs


Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Such an unassuming yet classic Italian dish. And who doesn’t love it? Everyone seems to have their own recipe – not only for the sauce, but for the type of pasta they prefer and of course the meatball is the key ingredient that makes or breaks the dish – at least in my opinion. I was never too fussy about sauce in the past, but as I’ve grown in my culinary tastes and techniques (and the influence of my Italian boyfriend), I’ve come to like a simple tomato sauce made with nothing but tomato and basil and garlic and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. As far as pasta goes, I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to meatballs – it either needs to be classic spaghetti or a rotini pasta, something with an edge or ridges that hold the sauce.

Now here comes the tricky part: the perfect meatball. I have had some of the most delicious meatballs in my life and some that more resembled old sponges than the delightfully bouncy and rich texture I think a humble meatball deserves. Not to mention the flavor – a bland meatball is about as pleasing as a piece of cardboard. It’s all about the ingredients that go inside that make it or break it.

So the other night I decided to go on a quest for the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe and after carefully researching my options, dug up a recipe by Bobby Flay, another by Molly Wizenberg, and another from my Williams and Sonoma cookbook “Comfort Food” (which I am cooking my way through this Winter so expect quite a few comforting recipes on my blog in the next few months!)

recipe throwdown

I analyzed each recipe with a fine tooth comb; and they were all similar but different enough to be unique and have a flavor of their own. Two used pork and veal and beef for the meatballs, one used just ground beef and pork. One called for a cup of finely ground Parmesan cheese, two fresh grated cheese. Molly cooked her meatballs in the sauce, Bobby fried his in a pan and then finished cooking them in the sauce, and Williams-Sonoma baked their meatballs in the oven first and finished them in the sauce. The sauces were varyingly different versions of a Marinara, one used red wine and a bay leaf, one used only tomatoes, butter, onions and salt and the other used a small cubano chile for some extra kick.

ingredients

After comparing all my options, I created my own version (based on what I thought would work for me in terms of flavor and what I had on hand!) I have posted links to the original recipes at the end of my post if you’d like to check them out for yourself, but mine takes the ingredients from three brilliant chefs/authors/culinary legends and makes the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe. Mission complete!

San Marzano Tomato and Basil Sauce

1 can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes and Basil
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tsp dried oregano (Spices and Tease gourmet brand is the best!)
1 tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
½ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. milk
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp)
¼ c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ tsp. Gourmet Garlic and Parsley Salt
½ tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper

1 16 oz. container of Fresh Direct San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce with 1 tbsp Italian tomato paste stirred in (For those of you with no access to Fresh Direct sauces, simply make the homemade San Marzano sauce and cook the meatballs in that sauce when simmering)

1 lb. pasta (of your choice)

MEATBALLS

sauteed garlic

Measure 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté minced garlic in a pan for about 1 minute until soft and lightly golden (not to high of a heat or the garlic will burn). Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool.

panko breadcrumbs

In the meantime, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand 10 minutes until moistened.

Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce

At the same time, put the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce in a Dutch oven over low heat to start warming for the meatballs later on.

Parmesan, Parsley and Garlic

Chop fresh parsley, measure garlic and parmesan cheese.

Egg, Parsley, Cheese

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic and parsley, cheese, salt and pepper until combined.

Meat Mixture and Breadcrumbs

Add the beef and pork to the egg mixture and gently mix until ingredients are combined, slowly mix in the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture using a claw-like gesture with your hands. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour (at least 15-20 minutes).

Meatball prep

After the meat mixture has chilled, roll the meatballs into golfball size balls (should make about 20 meatballs) and arrange on a pan.

Sauteed Meatballs

Heat ½ c. olive oil in a large metal pan over high heat and add the meatballs, frying until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

meatballs simmering in sauce

Add the meatballs (and any scraped up browned bits from the meatball pan) to the Dutch oven into the Fresh Direct San Marzano sauce and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

SAUCE

Garlic

To make the additional tomato and basil marinara sauce, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic over very low heat in a medium sauce pan until slightly golden.

Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes

Pour the Tuttorosso Tomato and Basil Crushed tomatoes into the sauce pan, adding the other ingredients (salt and pepper, oregano, basil) and top off sauce with another tbsp of olive oil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.

San Marzano Tomato and Basil sauce

When the sauce is done simmering, add to the Dutch oven, mixing with the additional sauce and meatballs and let simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (and a dash of olive oil) until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Drain pasta and serve in serving bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley if desired and serve with a bold red wine and some crusty garlic bread (recipe below). Now THIS, indeed, is the most perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs I’ve ever had – Mangia!

Serves 4-6.

GARLIC BREAD

Garlic Bread

Cut up some Italian bread and add butter and a sprinkle of some garlic and parsley salt. Bake in the oven on 350-400 until toasty and golden brown. Crunchy, garlicky – so good!

ORIGINAL RECIPES

Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook)

Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2010)

Williams-Sonoma Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty cookbook)

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