Spaghetti-Stuffed Eggplant

I’ve made a version of this dish for years. Then, in 2016, I took small group to Ragusa, Sicily (my ancestral home). We cooked with a family in their home and this is what they made. It was so good and proved once again that recipes in my family and the ones I encounter in Sicily and Campania have a very direct connection!

I used capellini. In Sicily they used a thicker fusilli. Either way- all good! I hope you’ll try it. Let me know how it goes. 🙂 Happy Cooking! Recipe below!

Spaghetti-Stuffed Eggplant

1 medium eggplant

1/2 cup AP or Self-Rising Flour

olive oil for sautéing 

1 small onion

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

splash of white wine

1/4 pound spaghetti or capellini

2 tablespoons butter

1  1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 pound mozzarella, cut into cubes or thin slices

salt & pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant in strips, so there’s still some skin. Slice thinly into large slices (so you can roll them up). Season the flour with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in large frying pan. Dredge eggplant slices in flour and shake off excess. Fry eggplant until golden on each side and slices are softened. Drain on paper towels.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan. Add the diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add splash of wine, let it cook out, then add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Heat a medium saucepan filled with water. When boiling, salt water, and add the pasta (break strands in half first for easier handling later). When pasta is done, drain, and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter to coat. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of tomato sauce to pasta and stir to coat.

Place ricotta in a small bowl and season well with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a 9 X 13 inch pan or casserole or similar (something that can go in the oven). Add a little sauce to the bottom of pan to coat. Place a slice of cooked eggplant on a work surface. Slather some ricotta to cover. Place a couple of tablespoons of pasta. Top with a basil leaf. Roll to close (sometimes you can just close it without too much rolling)— place seam side down in pan. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, and place the rolled bundles in snugly. Top with some sauce and sprinkle the mozzarella on top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until mozzarella melts and starts to brown. To serve, use a large spoon to get under each bundle to transfer to plates.

Easy Chicken Piccata

I LOVE this dish. And it is so simple to do. Here’s a quick video giving you all the details (and recipe below). Make this often. You will crave the flavor! Lemony — Buttery — the zip of capers — and the depth of wine. It’s got it all.

Chicken Piccata

10-12 thin chicken cutlets (cut from 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts)

1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 shallot, peeled and minced

Juice of 3 lemons

1/3 cup white wine

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons capers

salt to taste

Place the seasoned flour in a medium shallow bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan. Dredge chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Sauté cutlets until golden on each side and cooked through. Add a little more oil if needed as you sauté. Lay out cooked chicken slices on a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add shallot to the same pan and cook till softened, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, wine, lemon slices, and capers. Cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce a little. Swirl in 1-2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer. Pour over chicken. Serve.

How to Make Fresh Pasta and Ravioli

Here’s a quick video on how easy it is to make fresh pasta dough — and Ravioli! It’s easier than you think. Recipe is below. And video gives you a visual step by step. Let me know if you try it, and how it worked out. And if you have any questions. 🙂

Chef Paulette at ChefPaulette.net
Music & Camera by DuaneSpencer.com

Recipe:
For the Pasta Dough: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons olive oil

Make the dough: Whisk the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a “well” in the middle. Pour egg mixture into the well center. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough starts to comes together. Gather the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface until most of the floury color disappears, and the dough is smooth. Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes - 1 hour.
For the filling:
1 and 1/2 cups ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Make the filling: In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ricotta, grated cheese, and parsley. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the pasta full batch into 4 quarters. Use two of the four quarters of the pasta dough recipe. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner, one at a time until you reach desired thickness …usually about the 5th or 6th number. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers if it feels too sticky. 

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant teaspoons-full of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Spicy Shrimp Tomato Sauce

This goodie has been in my family since my childhood (probably before I can remember, too). It’s the quintessential tomato sauce with shrimp and shrimpy flavor. Add it to spaghetti or linguine and you’ll be so happy!

We also make this with fresh blue-claw crabs, or lobster tails. Or calamari, or scungilli, too. Fish — seafood — love this sauce! And so will you.

Start with the most important part. The spice blend: some minced fresh Italian parsley, dried oregano, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. That’s almost the whole thing.

But the recipe below will take you through the very easy steps.

Spicy Shrimp Tomato Sauce with Pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

3 teaspoons, minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1lb. or 1/2 lb. Spaghetti or Linguine

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until hot. Season the shrimp lightly with salt. Add shrimp to pan with oil. Cook tossing until shrimp are almost cooked through and pink. Remove from pan. Add garlic, oregano, parsley, and pepper flakes. Saute until garlic softens and starts to color, about 1-2 minutes. Add the wine. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes. stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add shrimp back, simmer for 8-10 minutes more while pasta boils.

Recipe Stories

In history books you read about kings and queens, wars and land grabs, treaties and truces, but the history of what goes on in the private domain of kitchens is a little less covered. It’s not in your Social Studies curriculum. 

I think a ruler’s reign is not more interesting than what you love to eat. I’d rather dig through pantry ingredients than make a chart of the rise and fall of empires. 

For instance, these recipes were handwritten by my mom (one by my dad) several decades ago. She wrote them while watching my Aunt Mary bake these confections. Aunt Mary lived upstairs from us in Brooklyn. It was my first address, where I lived from birth to seven years old. Bensonhurst. A mostly Jewish neighborhood, with some Italians tucked in here and there. My best friend, Franny, lived directly across the street.

Aunt Mary, and her husband, Uncle John, were not really my aunt and uncle. They were good friends of my parents, older friends, and as happens in childhood, friends of parents become “relatives.” 

My mom loved Aunt Mary’s cooking and always asked for the recipes. Aunt Mary, would instead say, “Come on up, I’ll show you.” So my mom watched, playing kitchen secretary, and wrote down what was happening. That’s how the recipes became her own.

When I started cooking as an adult, I’d ask my mom how do you make “your” cookies. What about “The Cupcakes?” And the seeded cookies? My mom told me the recipes. And each time she’d tell me the real source, which was always a revelation to me: “That’s not yours? It’s Aunt Mary’s? And this one, too…it’s Aunt Mary’s?”

A lot of them are Aunt Mary’s. She had Sicilian roots and was 1st generation American. My Dad was also. My mom was half and half: Sicilian and Neapolitan. Aunt Mary’s recipes were not always Italian or Sicilian — she made her hybrids from Italian-American life, too. It happens. And not always confections. We make Aunt Mary’s spareribs braised in brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, and mustard. We also love her onion pizza and Swiss cheese pizza.

My mom has a large plastic see-through envelope filled with the handwritten recipes she transcribed in pencil from watching Aunt Mary cook. These papers have seen a lot of use. Mary’s pizza dough recipe (the one I use, too, and the only one I’ve ever seen that has an egg in the dough), was re-transcribed by my dad. He became the pizza maker in our house.

I can still recite the address of that first Brooklyn residence. 1554 West 11th Street. It was next door to Seth Low Junior High. The school’s huge playground faced the side of our house. We were on the “parlor” floor. Aunt Mary upstairs, the landlord downstairs from us. My friend, Franny, and I went to PS 247: Kindergarten, First Grade and Second Grade. It was a 4-5 block walk from our street. When we became first graders, our moms let us walk to school on our own. They even gave us each a dollar for lunch. At lunchtime, we’d walk to the big and busy Bay Parkway, and go to Andre’s for a hamburger and French fries. I remember those lunches. We’d enter among a sea of legs, adult legs, all crowding at the counter to get their lunches. Somehow we 6-year-olds prevailed and ate lunch sitting on the low sill in Andre’s street-facing plate-glass window.

My mom confessed later that they’d sometimes come to check on us. They’d see us in the window happily nibbling our French fries. They didn’t bother us, or say hi. They just checked.

Current Google image of 1554 West 11th Street
PS 247 Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Find the Fava Beans (with Pasta)

FV-shelled cU

It’s spring. The best time to find some fava beans. (Although, because food tends to travel long distances, you may find them during other seasons.)

When I worked at Batali’s restaurant, Lupa, in NYC, springtime fava beans were on the menu every day. In the prep kitchen, shucking the beans was a daily routine. We shucked and parboiled with love. And the beans ended up in pasta, vegetable sides, and appetizers. I LOVE them.

You can often find them at international markets. When you buy them, buy a lot. The pods are bulky and once you get the beans out, the volume shrinks to about a quarter of the original beans-in-the-pod. But the little beans are rich, in a vegetable-healthy way.

FV-raw

Here’s a recipe for a quick pasta dish with fava. I added shallot and mushrooms and a little bit of fresh herbs — basil & parsley — to go with spaghetti.

First: break open the pods and remove the beans. Discard the pods.

FV-shelled

Now: bring a medium saucepan– half-way filled with water — to a boil. Add a little salt, add beans. Par-boil for about 1-2 minutes. Then drain, and run under cool water. We’re not trying to cook the beans here. We want to loosen the shell coating.

Here’s where it gets a little tedious (but so worth it!): peel shell off of each bean. I usually pull from the thick bump on one end of the shell.

FV-boiled shelled

Inside the tender beans are bright deep green.

FV-boiled shelled CU

Now you’re ready to start your pasta sauce. Put a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. Sauté a minced shallot and a handful of sliced mushrooms, and your fava beans in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook at a lively simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add a 1/4 of dry white wine. Let it simmer and almost evaporate.

I love some toasted breadcrumbs with this dish. Just add a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs or Panko to a small frying pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and sauté until browned.

FV-toasted breadcrumbs

As your fava/mushrooms mixture cooks, boil some spaghetti. When spaghetti is done, drain (reserving a cup of pasta water), add to sauté pan with fava. Cook for another 2 minutes, coating pasta with sauce. If too dry, add pasta water and a little olive oil. Then a handful of the breadcrumbs.

FV-inpan BC

Mix them in. Serve. Eat. Mangia. Enjoy!

FV-in pan mixed BC

Spaghetti with Fava Beans and Mushrooms

1  1/2 pounds fava bean (in pods)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2-3/4 pound spaghetti

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko

handful basil and or parsley leaves, rough chopped

salt to taste

Shuck the beans from the pods. Discard pods. Bring a half pot of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add beans and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cool water.

Peel shells off of fava beans. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add minced shallot, sliced mushrooms and fava beans. Saute until the mushrooms brown. Add the wine and let evaporate. Season with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a pasta pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook to al dente. When done, drain (reserve a cup of pasta water) and add to pan with vegetables. Toss to coat, cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add more olive oil or pasta water if too dry. Add a handful of toasted breadcrumb. Mix in. Add herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve.

 

Tasty Recipe for Cornish Hen

Henscooked.jpg

roasted Cornish hen

Oh, they are so little! They border on game, but aren’t really. Still there’s a slightly deeper taste to the meat (than, say, chicken). They cook up fast (because: oh, they’re so little!) and are so easy to make tasty.

May fave way is to make a quick pesto of your favorite herbs. Add as many as you like — or use just one. Pulse in a food processor with a little garlic. Add salt and a little olive oil. Press the pesto under the breast skin.

HensJim.jpg

Jim, Karen, and Chuck dressing hens in my class

Hens-Barbara.jpg

Barbara & Vickie getting hens ready in my class

I rub some butter all over the bird. Add some thyme leaves to the pan and some quartered lemons. Stuff a few lemon pieces inside the bird.

Hensstuffedraw.JPG

ready for the oven 

Season well with salt and roast at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes. Instant read should say 180 (a bit more than the 165 for chix). And ta-da!

I know some people could go with a whole Cornish hen for a serving, but I split them in half down the breast line and serve each person half a hen (so there… you have a new band name: Half a Hen). 🙂

Yum, yum, yum, yum.

Roasted Cornish Hen in 5-Herb Vinaigrette (serves 4)

2 Cornish hens

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/4 cup oregano leaves

1/4 cup mint leaves

1 tablespoon sage leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped 

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 lemons, 1 zested/1 quartered 

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2-3 thyme whole sprigs

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

You can roast hens whole of to spatchcock: cut the backbone out of the 2 hens so that they can lay flat, skin side up, spatchcock-style. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place a grate into the pan — or use without.

Add the parsley, oregano, mint, sage, and garlic to the bowl of a processor. Pulse until minced fine. Scrape into a medium mixing bowl. Add thyme leaves, lemon zest, and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.

Loosen breast skin from hens. Stuff pesto until skin of the breasts. Place hens on sheet pan. Rub with butter. Season with with salt & pepper. Toss thyme sprigs, and lemon quarters on top. Roast for about 45 minutes until golden brown and instant read thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Cut each hen in half, down the bread line. Serve hot.

Fresh Fava Bean w Pasta Recipe

IMG_6004.jpg

fresh fava beans

I think my first encounter with fava beans was in the 70’s when I went to school in Rome. I was surrounded by Italians — many in love with cooking (but, of course). So I was not only encouraged to eat fava, but to cook them, too. It’s a process I would bring home with me to NYC… and one that I would encounter in quantity while working the prep kitchen at Mario Batali’s Lupa restaurant. There, we were asked to prepare the fava beans with love. And we did.

Favas are not the kind of vegetable you bring home and just sauté, or boil, or roast. There’s a time-intensive, work-intensive ritual before the cooking starts. Don’t be scared away. It’s well worth it!

Favas generally appear in the spring and fall. But with our global transfer of foods, there are places you might be able to buy them all the time. I find them often at international groceries and/or Middle Eastern grocery stores. Italians are not the only culture in love with fava beans.

Here’s a recipe for fava cooked with leeks and pancetta and tossed with pasta. Do (really do) try it. It’s homey, and easy, and full of flavor. And quick!

IMG_6036.jpg

pasta w fava beans

First. How to prepare the favas. They grow in thick pods — like peas pods after a workout. Get a lot. I usually half-fill or almost-fill a clear vegetable bag. After shucking the beans you’ll throw away the pods.

IMG_5990.jpg

pile of fava pods

Tear open the pods, and pull out the beans inside.

IMG_5997.jpg

luscious fava in the pod

IMG_6006.jpg

beans out of the pods

But you’re not done with prep yet. First get a medium saucepan of water boiling. Add little salt. Toss in the fava beans and boil for about 1-2 minutes. You’re not really cooking them here, just trying to loosen the shells.

Drain the beans and run them under cool water. Now pinch one end of the shell and push out the deeper green-colored bean inside.

IMG_6017.jpg

peeling fava shells

You can throw out the shells. But keep those precious green jewels!

IMG_6020.jpg

peeled, blanched fava

NOW start your recipe. Sauté some minced leek (I use 1 leek, just the white part, rinsed well), with about 1/4 lb. diced pancetta in a little olive oil.

IMG_6023

saute leek and pancetta

When the leek has softened and the pancetta cooks through, add the favas. Sauté 3-4 minutes. Then add a splash of dry white wine or dry vermouth. Let that evaporate.

IMG_6027

add vermouth

Then simmer for 4-5 minutes more until the favas are tender to the bite. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, boil a favorite cut pasta in salted boiling water— about 1/2 lb. When almost al dente drain and add to the sauté pan.

IMG_6031.jpg

add the pasta

Cook stirring for a few minutes more. Add some pasta water if too dry. Add a few drizzles of olive oil. Season with some more salt if needed.

IMG_6032.jpg

pasta w fava beans

Add some torn basil leaves if you’ve got ’em. Mmmmmm! Enjoy.

IMG_6034.jpg

pasta w fava beans

Fresh Fava Bean w Pasta Recipe

2 lbs. fava beans in pods

1 leek, trimmed of green, rinsed, & diced

1/4 lb. diced pancetta

olive oil for sautéing plus extra

1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

1/2 lb. favorite cut pasta

salt to taste

Open the pods and take out the fava beans. Discard pods. Bring a medium saucepan, half full with water, to a boil. Salt water. Drop in fava beans, boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cool water. Pinch the end of each bean shell and push out the bright green beans in side. Discard shells.

Put a pot of pasta water on to boil.

Add a couple of drizzles of olive oil to a medium sauté pan, heat till hot. Add diced leek and pancetta. Sauté for 1- 2 minutes. Add fava beans, sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add wine or vermouth. Simmer until mostly evaporated, 2-3 minutes more. Cook a couple of minutes more until fava are tender to the bite.

Meanwhile, add salt to boiling water and boil pasta. When almost al dente, drain and add pasta to sauté pan. Stir to coat. Sauté adding some pasta water if too dry, adding some olive oil to coast, adjust seasoning (salt), add some torn fresh basil if you have some.

Serve with grated parmigiano (optional).

Braciole – Recipe & Lore

CYOD4587.jpg

Braciole – before and after

When I was around 6 years old, my best friend, Franny Toubail, from across the street (in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn), would sometimes come for dinner. She wasn’t always familiar with the food my mom cooked. I remember one dinner where veal cutlets were a revelation for her. And that was a revelation for me. Not everyone eats veal cutlets?

No. Not everyone does. A lot of Italians in Brooklyn do.

Same with braciole (pronounced: brah-szhol). For the early part of my life I assumed braciole was simmering in all kitchens on the block. Not so. Not everyone knows braciole. Maybe you don’t either. May I introduce you?

It seems its name is more of an Italian-American concoction. The same dish is called involtini in Italy. But there’s some connection. Braciola in Italy is often thin slices of sautéed beef. And thin slices of beef is where braciole starts.

Thin slices of beef are rolled up like a jelly roll with stuffing inside, tied together, or toothpick-ed closed, browned and then braised in tomato sauce.

IMG_4696.jpg

braciole assembly line in one of my classes

What’s the filling? Varies widely with each family. What kind of beef? This changes, too. With some cuts, the braciole needs to braised 2-3 hours, with others, the braciole becomes tender enough within an hour.

My mom’s stuffing was always, simply, breadcrumb, grated cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil. They are delicious this way. Other people add meats, more cheeses, raisins, nuts, even hard-boiled egg slices.

The recent craze for braciole in my family was inspired by a new cut of meat we found. My mom was the experimenter and whoa! what great results.

I’m gonna tell you where to get this cut of meat, but you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone else because I don’t want to get to the store and find it’s all sold out! First off, you have to shop at Aldi. In general they have very reliable meats, but look for the package that says: “thin sliced sirloin tip” and the sign on the shelf says” “for carne asada.” Yes, it’s for carne asada, but what they don’t say: IT’S PERFECT FOR BRACIOLE!

The package looks like a long thick piece of beef, maybe like a London broil, but there are 4 long thin slices piled in there. (If you can’t get Aldi’s perfect-for-braciole meat, then try thin sliced sirloin tip from someone else, or top round, or sirloin, all thin-sliced, but know that it’s this Aldi cut that cooks faster.)

Lay a slice on your work surface so that the length is parallel to your table edge.  Cut it right in half down the middle. You’re gonna layer each half with filling and roll it up away from you– you want the grain of the meat to be parallel to the table edge, too, so that when you cut across later, you’re cutting across the grain.

I’ve upped the ante with my “family” stuffing by ripping or cutting salami and/or prosciutto into small pieces. In addition to the grated parmigiano, I add some shredded asiago. Fresh parsley leaves, sprinkling of breadcrumb (I prefer panko), salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and that’s it. That’s enough — it’s great.

IMG_4701.jpg

Roll them as tightly as possible. Tie them tightly in 4-5 places with kitchen string.

IMG_4699

Sauté in hot oil until browned on all sides.

 

Make a simple tomato sauce and when braciole is browned, add it to sauce and simmer for about an hour (or two hours with the non-Aldi cuts of meat) until the meat cuts easily and is tender.

 

Snip off the strings, cut into pinwheel slices, serve with some sauce spooned on top. Use rest of sauce for pasta!

Let me know how it goes. I’m open to questions. It seems tricky but it’s not. It’s easy and packs so much flavor. YUUUUUUUUM.

Beef Braciole – Rolled Stuffed Beef in Tomato Sauce (serves 4-5)

1 1/2 lbs. beef sirloin tip (cut into about 4 long thin slices) (or thin round steak)

1/2 lb. sliced salami, cut into small pieces

1 cup shredded asiago cheese

1 cup grated parmigiano

1 cup panko

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, rough chopped

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling & sautéing

kitchen twine

If the slices are very long, cut the slices so they are about 4-6 inches wide. Lay a slice on a work surface. Season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle a few salami pieces. Sprinkle some panko breadcrumbs to lightly cover. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with shredded asiago, grated parmigiano, and a few parsley leaves. Start at one end and roll as tightly as possible in a jelly-roll style. Make sure the grain of the meat is lined up with the length of the roll and not “across it.” (i.e. parallel to the rolled direction.)

Cut several 6-7-inch lengths of string. Tie strings around the roll, each about an inch apart, making a knot at each tie and cutting off most of the excess (leave some of the excess knot for grabbing later to cut string off).

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a medium sauté pan. When hot, season the rolls with salt and place in the oil. Brown until golden brown on at least 2 sides or more. Add to tomato sauce and simmer at a low bubble for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from sauce. When cooled a little, cut off string. Slice across into thick “pinwheels” about an inch wide. Spoon on some tomato sauce. Serve.

Quick Tomato Sauce

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1/4 dry white wine

1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the wine, let evaporate. Add tomatoes. Stir and season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_4667.JPG

finished braciole

Can I go back to Italy now?

IMG_3896

our country hotel in Assisi

I just got back from Italy and I want to go back right now.

IMG_4237

Piazza Navona, Roma

Happens every time. It is never enough. Perhaps even living there is never enough (it wasn’t when I DID live there!).

What is it about that country? Okay, I’m second generation Italian-American. So there’s that this-feels-like-home phenomenon. But STILL. The small groups that I lead there are Americans from different descents, and they, TOO, want to stay for extended periods of time.

IMG_3903

my group with the proprietors of our Assisi hotel

Italy is the charming country. It’s the beauty. The food…

ravioli w crispy pancetta

Siena lunch: ravioli w crispy pancetta

…the People…

IMG_4350

Every Italian is thrilled with fresh porcini season…here at Mastro Donato In Testaccio, Roma

…the differences between regions. Differences between cities, towns. The food…

IMG_4011

pizza at Mercato Centrale in Firenze

…Striking mountains. Lush hills…

IMG_4130

hills in Tuscany

…Stunning coastlines. Coffee…

IMG_3993

Siena breakfast

…History. Monuments. Art…

IMG_4209

Venus by Botticelli at Uffizi Galleries in Firenze

…Fountains…

…Food…

IMG_4191

Bistecca Fiorentina in Firenze

…Philosophy of life.

And it’s shaped like a boot. What other country is clever enough to be shaped like something so recognizable?

On this recent trip, my group and I tasted the food of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. We dove particularly deep into Firenze, Roma, and Chianti country. I brought back many new recipes from these experiences, and am inspired to recreate many more.

One of my favorites is below. We visited a small winery in the Chianti Classico region, where they served us lunch. The star of the menu was pasta cooked in Chianti wine. Delicious! And so simple. See the recipe below and do try it. Enjoy! Ciao for now…

wine pasta

pasta cooked in Chianti for our wine-tasting at Brogioni Maurizio Montefioralle

IMG_4150

Maurizio, the producer, telling us about the process of wine-making

Pasta Cooked in Chianti Wine (serves 2-3)

1/2 cup chopped pancetta (or bacon)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 lb. cut pasta, such as fusilli or farfalle

3/4 cup Chianti wine or favorite dry red wine

1/4 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino or combination

4-5 fresh sage leaves, diced, stems discarded

salt & pepper to taste

Place a pasta pot of water on the heat. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place the olive oil and chopped pancetta in a small frying pan. Cook until pancetta cooks through and browns a bit. Reserve in pan.

When water has boiled, salt water well, add pasta and cook until almost done, just before al dente or to al dente (softness of your cooked pasta is up to you, but Italians don’t like it too soft…pasta will cook some more in the wine).

Start heating wine while pasta is boiling. Pour wine into a sauté pan with at least 2-inch sides. Bring wine to a simmer. Add a pinch of salt to wine. When pasta is al dente, scoop out with a strainer and add pasta to the wine. Let it cook in wine at a lively simmer, stirring, for about 2 minutes until wine is mostly or all absorbed. Take off the heat, or transfer pasta to a bowl.

Season with salt and pepper. Pour in pancetta with its oil. Sprinkle and stir in cheese. Sprinkle and stir in diced sage leaves. Stir to combine. Serve.