Friday, May 7, 2021

SPAGHETTI WITH WHTE CLAM SAUCE - Spaghetti alle Vongole Bianche

This recipe has a lot of fresh little neck clams (from the Chesapeake Bay) and clam juice infused with white wine, olive oil, and finished off with butter.  Serve this with crusty bread for sopping up the juices.  Grated cheese is optional, but most Italians say that's a "no-no", but we like it with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.



4 to 5 dozen clams (middle neck clams to the smaller little neck).
¼ cup water
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb spaghetti 
¼ cup olive oil 
1 small yellow onion or shallot, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t fresh oregano leaves
4 T unsalted butter
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
2 T finely chopped Italian parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)

Fill a large bowl or with cool water.  Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt (not iodized salt) and let the clams sit in the cool water for 20 to 30 minutes, but no more.  Gently spoon then into a colander and rinse them a couple more minutes with cool tap water.

In a large pot that you will boil the pasta in, bring water and wine to a boil.  Add the clams, cover, and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until clams open. 
Discard any clams that failed to open.

Pour clams and juice from pot into a large mesh strainer, set over a large bowl to catch the juices.  Remove all but about 16 to 20 clams from their shells and roughly chop.  Place them in a smaller bowl.  Leave the rest of the clams in their shells and place in a bowl, covered to keep warm.  Set all three bowls aside.

Meanwhile, in the same large pot, cook the spaghetti 7 to 8 minutes in salted water until al dente.  Before draining reserve two ladles of pasta water; pour one over the clams in their shells to keep then warm, and reserve another ladleful (in a glass or cup) to add to the almost-finished clam sauce.

In a large skillet large enough to hold the pasta and sauce, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion or shallot for about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and butter and sauté another minute.
Add the chopped clams, clam broth (pour slowly so that any grit will be left behind), and reserved pasta water.  Cook one more minute.
Season lightly with salt and pepper and add the lemon zest and juice.
Add the drained pasta to the pan along with the parsley.  Heat for just a minute or two while tossing with a pair of tongs, until well combined.

Divide into 4 warm pasta bowls and garnish each bowl with the clams in the shells.  Pour the rest of the hot clam broth from from the skillet over each bowl.

Sprinkle with some of the parsley, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with grated cheese, if desired.

Serves 4

Thursday, April 22, 2021

ULTIMATE TIRAMISÙ

Tiramisù roughly translated means "pick me up" or "lift me up". It is a traditional dessert from Italy made with espresso, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, Savoiardi (ladyfingers), and a custard called zabaglione. Every Italian mamma has her own recipe. I was fortunate enough to enjoy one made by my friend Giuseppina Cappiello in Positano.




Espresso Syrup
1 cup brewed espresso, or 2 T instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
¼ cup marsala wine

Zabaglione

4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
2 T marsala wine

1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1 cup heavy whipping cream

24 Savoiardi Ladyfingers 

Cocoa powder, for dusting
Chocolate shavings, for garnish

In a medium bowl, mix together the espresso and marsala and let 
cool.

Make a double boiler by placing a heat-resistant bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.

Do not let the bowl touch the simmering water.
Beat egg yolks and sugar in the double boiler using a hand-held electric mixer until tripled in volume, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Carefully remove bowl from heat and place on a tea towel.
Beat in the marsala wine and mascarpone until combined.

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.


Gently fold the mascarpone mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.


Quickly dip both sides of each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture.

Line a 9-inch pan with the ladyfingers. You will have to cut some to completely fill the pan.
Spread half of the mascarpone filling on top.
Dip the rest of the ladyfingers in coffee and arrange over the filling.
Spread the remaining mascarpone filling on top.
Cover and refrigerate 6 hours.

Let tiramisu stand a room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Dust with cocoa and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Serves 9







Wednesday, April 7, 2021

PAN-FRIED SCALLOPS

I don't know the reason but East Coast scallops are the sweetest scallops I have ever tasted, especially scallops from the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. This is a simple and delicious way to pan fry them.



10 East Coast sea scallops
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 T unsalted butter, divided
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
3 T white wine or white vermouth
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Snipped chives

Dry scallops with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.
Add scallops and brown on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Do not flip over until at least 3 minutes to get a nice brown color.
Flip over and brown on the other side.
Add the garlic and cook another minute. 
Place scallops on two warm plates. 
Add the wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, and the rest of the butter to the skillet. 
Reduce the liquid for a couple more minutes. 
Pour over scallops and garnish with snipped chives.  

Serves 2





Friday, March 5, 2021

SICILIAN RICOTTA CHEESECAKE - Torta di Ricotta

Ricotta cheesecakes are easy to make and they are so very delicious. This one has a graham cracker crust on the bottom and partially up the sides. I found a box of graham cracker crumbs in the supermarket. This saved me from crushing them in my food processor. It's always nice to save a step if you can.

I also posted the ingredients to change this cheesecake into an Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake. 


1½ cups graham cracker crumbs or about 20 graham crackers, finely crushed
½ cup melted unsalted butter
32 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ t sea salt
Grated zest of 1 large organic or carefully washed orange
2 T orange juice
1 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs with the butter.
Firmly press graham cracker crumbs into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of a 7 to 8-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, zest, juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix until completely combined.

Pour batter into pan and place on a baking sheet or pizza pan.
Place in center of the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Turn oven off and let cheesecake sit in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until firm throughout.

Let cool on the counter, and then refrigerate for 2 hours to set.

Remove from springform pan to a cake plate and decorate with confectioners’ sugar or more grated orange zest, if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake Crust
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
10 amaretti cookies
4 whole graham crackers
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Place above ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and process for a few seconds.

Filling

In place of the orange zest and juice, add the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
In place of the vanilla extract, add 1 t of pure almond extract.




Tuesday, March 2, 2021

PEPPERONI PIZZA


Pizza Dough
¾ cup warm water
2 t active dry yeast
2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
½ t sea salt

Pour half of the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes, until creamy and bubbly.
Add 1 cup of the flour and using a spoon, mix together.  Add the rest of the warm water, flour and salt.  Hook up the bowl with the hook attachment and mix until dough forms a ball.
Adding a little more flour if needed.
Remove from bowl and form into a smooth ball. 
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean tea towel and place ion a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Pizza Sauce
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28-oz) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (or the best peeled tomatoes you can find)
1 t sugar
1 t sea salt
½ t fine black pepper
2 t dried Italian seasoning or 1 t dried basil and 1 t dried oregano

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. 
Add the garlic and cook a minute.
Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, and herbs.
Simmer for 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool

Toppings
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 bag pepperoni
16 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
Olive oil
½ t red pepper flakes, optional

Lightly oil the center of a half sheet pan (13-by-18-inches).  
Put the pizza dough in the pan and gently stretch it to fit so the dough reaches the corners.
If the dough seems temperamental, let it rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Scatter half of the grated cheese over the dough.
Spread some of the Pizza Sauce over the dough, except for the edges.
Add the pepperoni, scatter on the mozzarella cheese, drizzle with some olive oil and red pepper flakes, if using.

Place pizza in center of oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Rotate pan and bake another 8 to 10 minutes.

Place on a cutting board and cut into squares.

12 servings









Sunday, February 21, 2021

CASA BOLOGNESE SAUCE

The first time I tasted Bolognese sauce was my first visit to Italy in 1969. I had it again in a restaurant located near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It was only on their "Primi Piatti" (first dishes) menu. I always ordered it for my main course. I worked on duplicating this recipe for 20 years. Penne translates to "quills" or "pens". You will find penne pasta in two forms, lisce (smooth) or rigate (furrowed). Bolognese sauce is also delicious with tagliatelle or papparelle pasta.

You can make Bolognese sauce with just ground beef, if you prefer.



Soffritto
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic

Ragù

2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
½ lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups beef broth
2 cups water
2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t finely ground black pepper

4 T unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until finely minced.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven or large pot, over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the 
pancetta until golden.
Add a third of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with half of the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the last of the beef.
Finally, brown the pork, leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and soffritto to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the beef broth, water, tomato paste, salt, and pepper; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 3 hours, stirring often.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.

Boil the penne in salted water until al dente "to the tooth"
Drain into a colander and then pour back into the pot. 
Spoon in some of the Bolognese sauce and stir to combine.
Spoon onto warm pasta bowl and add a little more sauce, if desired, and garnish with fresh basil.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago.



Ragù
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal 
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (12-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat 
for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and veal and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and vegetables to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8











Saturday, February 6, 2021

PASTA & BEANS - Pasta e Fagioli

This is the classic soup of pasta and beans from Southern Italy, especially popular in Napoli and the Amalfi coast. Don't be a fool...eat pasta fazool! It is truly amore!


2 oz pancetta, diced
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
2 T tomato paste
2 quarts chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind 

2 (14 oz) cans cannellini beans with liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ditalini or ditali pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until golden.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another minute.
Add wine and simmer 3 minutes.
Add tomato paste, chicken stock, sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind.
Simmer 20 minutes. 

Add beans and simmer 10 more minutes.
Remove the sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind; season to taste with salt and 
pepper. 
Add pasta and simmer another 5 to 6 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some grated Parmigiano cheese. 


Serves 4 to 6 



Friday, February 5, 2021

CHICKEN LOMBARDY - Pollo al Marsala Lombardo

In Italy, this dish is called Pollo al Marsala Lombardo (Chicken Marsala) and made without cheese. With the addition of cheese and green onions, it is an Italian-American version. The capital of Lombardia is Milan. The regional cuisine is based on butter, lard, pork, veal and of course Risotto alla Milanese. 
If you want to serve this for company, prepare it in the morning, refrigerate, and let sit on your counter for 30 minutes before baking.
Serve with risotto, or pasta, or even roasted potatoes and a green salad.


4 T avocado oil
10 cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup marsala wine
¾ cup chicken stock or broth
2 T unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup shredded asiago cheese
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Lower heat to medium and add the onion and cook another 2 minutes.
Add garlic and cook another minute.
Spoon half of this mixture into a baking dish and the rest in a bowl and set aside.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise.

Pour flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess.

In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown half of the chicken on both sides 
until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
Place cooked chicken on top of mushroom mixture in baking dish.
Add the final tablespoon of oil to the skillet and brown the rest of the chicken on both sides until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
Spoon the rest of the mushroom mixture on top of the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


Add the wine and chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.

Add the butter and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour over the chicken in the baking dish.

Combine the cheeses with the scallions and sprinkle over chicken.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4 to 6