Monday, September 5, 2011

Pasta Valjo

Pasta Valjo
serves 10

My wife loves my Zuppa Pomodoro  di Toscano (Tuscan Tomato Soup), but it serves 8 or more and we were only 2 so I developed this recipe to find an alternative use for the excess soup . . .  we soon found that our friends and family enjoyed the pasta sauce so much I began making it as a dish of its own.   This recipe makes sufficient for 10 to 12 approximately 1cup servings, for smaller groups reserve, prior to adding the vodka,  the number of cups needed for service and freeze the remainder in a lidded, freezer safe container for future use as either a sauce base or soup.


2 – 28 ounce cans of imported San Marzano Tomatoes, including juices
2 cups of chicken stock
1 ¼ cup good Vodka
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream
1 cup Pesto di Basilico (Basil Pesto, see recipe)
½ tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt (to taste)
 freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

2½  pounds of pasta of your choice (about 1/4 pound per person)
Freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese 


1.  Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over low heat.  Add the diced onions and sauté until softened and translucent (do not brown).
2.  Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes (if used) raise heat  and bring the tomatoes to a simmer.  When the tomatoes are at a simmer, add the chicken stock.
3.  Continue simmering for about 15 minutes giving the flavours time to combine.
4.  Add the whipping cream and pesto.  Remove from the stove and carefully pour the sauce base into the container of a blender or food processor and process (in batches if necessary) to the consistency you desire (we enjoy the sauce slightly chunky in the Italian fashion).
5.  Reserve 1 cup sauce base per serving, at this point any base not used can be placed in a lidded, freezer safe container and frozen for future use.  Pour the reserved sauce base into a large sauce pan and set aside.
6.  Prepare pasta (allowing about ¼ pound pasta per person) al dente according to package directions.  Drain,  reserving 1 cup pasta water, cooked pasta.
7.  Place the sauce pan containing sauce base over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of vodka per serving of sauce (1 ¼  cups for the entire recipe) to the sauce base and bring to a rapid simmer.  Correct seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
8.  Add the pasta and toss.   If the sauce appears too tight for your tastes add the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time, until the desired consistence is attained.  
9.  Divide the sauce pasta among serving dishes and serve immediately accompanied by plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sicilian Style Pot Roast

Sicilian-Style Pot Roast
serves 4

This is an Italian variation on the popular inexpensive American Sunday supper stand-by.  Made with an inexpensive, even  "cheap", cut of beef its secret is in the long, slow, low temperature treatment of the beef and  the mix of Italian flavours.  For the tomato sauce, I prefer to use canned, whole San Marzano tomatoes (that's a variety of Roma tomatoes imported from Italy and grown  on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius) which I crush by hand.  For the red wine I recommend a good, full-bodied Chianti  or Burgundy.
2-3 pound beef pot roast
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup red wine
1 quart tomato sauce
1 quart beef stock (amount may vary)
Pinch sugar
Grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Coarse Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.  In a heavy Dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking add the pot roast and brown on all sides. Remove pot roast to a plate.
3.  Add the ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil to the Dutch oven and heat olive oil.   When the oil is hot add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook until aroma is apparent, DO NOT allow garlic to brown!
4.  Add wine, sugar, and tomato sauce, grated lemon peel and the olives to the pan and bring to a simmer.
5.  Add the pot roast to the sauce and add enough beef stock as to allow the liquid to come up 2/3 of the way up the beef.  Add lemon juice and chopped parsley to the sauce and check for seasoning.
6.  Bring the pot roast to a simmer on top of the stove, skim, cover tightly, and set in the lower third of a 350 degree preheated oven. Regulate heat so that the liquid remains at a gentle simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the beef is tender. Turn the roast over several times during its braising.
7.  Transfer roast to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes, covered with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Slice roast to your preference and serve topped with the tomato sauce.  Polenta and crusty Italian or French  make excellent accompaniments as do oven roasted potatoes.

Next Week's Post:  Caponata alla Siciliana

Polpetta alla Sansevero

Polpetta alla Sansevero
(Meatballs Sansevero)
serves 4 to 6
Normally meatballs are fried and then added to tomato sauce and cooked long and slow, and either served as a sandwich or as an accompaniment to pasta; My wife's favourite way to eat them though is as pictured . . . directly from the frying pan . . . no sauce, no pasta, no bread; just freshly fried.  When I fry these she is usually close by for "quality control";  “. . .that one isn’t round, guess I’ll have to eat it now!”, “. . . that one's too small, guess I’ll have to dispose of it!”.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2-pound ground lean pork or 1/2-pound of hot Italian sausage, removed from casing
1/2  cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2  cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to fry with
1.  In a bowl, thoroughly combine the ground beef, ground pork (or sausage meat), breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, parsley, cheese, nutmeg, egg, and salt and pepper.  Form mixture into golf ball sized meatballs; for a nicer finish roll each meatball in additional dry breadcrumb before frying, it will also give you one last opportunity to make them round.
2.  Refrigerate the completed meatballs for about 1/2 hour before frying to allow them to set up and the flavours to mix.
3.  Heat a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat.  Add oil and fry meatballs until browned on all sides.

4.  After meatballs are browned, add them to your simmering tomato sauce and allow them to simmer for at least 1/2  to 1 hour .  Serve accompanied by sauced pasta,  as a sandwich, sliced as a pizza topping, or place 4 meatballs in an oven-proof rarebit cover with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, bake in the oven until the mozzarella is bubbly and serve as   "Meatballs Parmesan".

Next Week's Posting:  Memphis Style Dry Rubbed Ribs

Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage

Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage 
French Onion Soup
Makes 4 to 6 servings
This is my signature soup and the family (even the onion haters among us) love it; my granddaughter Becky however is a purest and refuses to eat it unless it's served in a French Onion Soup bowl replete with garlic crouton, gobs of grated Swiss cheese and topped the Onion Soup Bowl top, I  agree in an ordinary soup bowl its just another soup . . . in the traditional,  handled bowl it's something  special!  Adding an additional bit of Port wine just before serving really bumps up the flavour.

 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter
3 pounds or about 8 cups yellow  onions,  thinly    sliced
1 tablespoon  chopped garlic
½  cup Port  wine (or to your taste)
2 quarts chicken or beef  broth (or a mixture of both)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the croutons:

   1  baguette
   2 or 3 large, peeled whole  cloves of garlic
   3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Swiss (Emmental or Gruyére) cheese, grated 
 1.  In a large saucepan over medium heat sauté onions and garlic in the oil and butter, stirring frequently, until the onions caramelize and are golden brown.   Sauté the onions in batches if necessary as you don’t want to crowd the sauteing onions because they won’t caramelize if crowded.  Don’t be afraid to add additional olive oil or butter to each new batch.
2.  When all the onions have been caramelized place them in a large soup pot.  Add the chicken/beef broth. Simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about 45 minutes taste the soup and correct seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and add the Port wine. Allow to simmer for another 15 or 20 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning and Port to taste.
3.  While the soup is simmering, preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice the baguette into 2 inch croutons and brush the croutons, top and bottom, with the olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place the cookie sheet in the oven and toast the croutons until the tops begin to harden.  Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and, one by one, rub the tops of each crouton with the garlic (the harden tops will act as a grater on the cloves).  After each crouton has been thus coated with garlic, turn them over and return to the oven for the other side to toast repeating the garlic rub on that side when it hardens. 
4.  Place one crouton into each French Onion Soup or other ovenproof bowls, ladle in soup into the bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese  and return the bowls to the oven and broil until cheese melts.   Serve immediately.

Next Week's Posting: Brasato alla Siciliana (Sicilian-Style Pot Roast)

Brasciole alla Sansevero (Italian Beef Rolls Sansevero)

Brasciole alla Sansevero
(Italian Beef Rolls Sansevero)
serves 6

When I was a kid, my mother's brasciole was an extra-special  Sunday treat; she would cook it in her Sunday "gravy" until the meat was butter soft.  Unfortunately she never wrote the recipe down so I developed this recipe from what I remembered.  I developed the sauce for it but I invite you to add the fried brasciole to your special Sunday "sauce" and create your own memories.

6 thin slices of round steak, flattened with a meat mallet to 1/8- 1/4 inch thick
1 pound ground veal, beef, or pork - OR - 2 cups dry Italian bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 slices of bacon, diced grease reserved
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten

3 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28 ounce can of tomatoes, crushed
1 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
½ cup basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 cup red wine
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
the sauce:
1.  In a large sauté pan over medium heat sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned.
2.  To the softened onions add tomatoes, herbs, red wine and water and leave to simmer over low heat while you prepare the brasciole.
the brasciole
1.  On a clean work surface, lay out beef slices flat.
2.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the minced veal (or bread crumbs and tomato paste), the bacon, garlic, parsley, oregano, shallot, raisins, pine nuts, Parmesan, beaten eggs, and the reserved bacon grease.  Season with salt and pepper.
3.  Place a heaping tablespoon of stuffing mixture on each beef slice, spreading it out well.  Roll up the beef jelly roll style and secure with kitchen twine.
4.  Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a separate sauté or frying pan over medium heat.  Brown the brasciole on all sides
5.  Place the browned brasciole in the sauce, cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours over low heat.

6. Working with one brasciole at a time and while keeping the sauce warm, remove a brasciole from the sauce to a clean cutting board; cut and remove the string, slice the brasciole into 1 to 2-inch thick "pin-wheels" and arrange the slices on a serving platter; continue until all the brasciole have been sliced.   Pour the warm sauce over the "pin-wheels" and serve immediately accompanied by crusty Italian or French bread.

Next Week's Posting: Pasta e Fagoli Basilicata (Pasta and Beans Basilicata)

Zuppa Pomodoro di Toscano (Tuscan Tomato Soup)

Zuppa Pomodoro  di Toscano
(Tuscan Tomato Soup)
serves 6
This isn't the bland,  tasteless catchup like soup from the famous red and  white can of your youth, this is a  full-bodied,  hearty,  and flavourful gift from Tuscany.  You can  either use fresh Roma tomatoes or whole, canned Italian style tomatoes . . . if  you opt  for  the  latter use genuine San Marzano tomatoes  from Italy it's worth the few pennies more in  taste.

5 cups tomatoes, peeled, diced and seeded
2 cups of chicken stock
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream
1 cup Basil Pesto (see recipe)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Heat oil in a medium sized, heavy bottomed soup pot over low heat.  Add the diced onions and sauté until softened and translucent (do not brown).
2.  Add the tomatoes and allow to simmer.  When the tomatoes are at a simmer, add the chicken stock.
3.  Continue simmering for about 15 minutes giving the flavours time to combine.
4.  Add the whipping cream and pesto.  Remove from the stove and carefully pour the soup into the container of a blender or food processor and process to the consistency you desire (we enjoy the soup slightly chunky).
5.  Pour the soup back into the pot and return  to a simmer over low heat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
6.  Serve warm accompanied by crusty Italian or French bread.

Next Week's Posting: Pollo Brasciole (Stuffed Chicken Rolls)

Pollo Brasciole (Stuffed Chicken Rolls)

 Pollo Brasciole
(Stuffed Chicken Rolls)
serves 4
This is a lighter version of the traditional beef braciole, the recipe can be modified to use approximately 1 cup of Italian seasoned commercial bread crumbs instead of slices of bread in which case the stuffing ingredients should simply be mixed together rather than processed together.
1/2 cup hot water
Handful golden raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups tomato sauce
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, a few sprigs, leaves chopped

1.  Place raisins into a small bowl and pour the hot water over it, allow raisins to plump for about 5 minutes or more.
2.  Meanwhile in a small skillet over low heat lightly toast the pine nuts until they begin to brown; watch them closely the nuts will go from lightly browned to burnt in a very short time.
3.  Drain the raisins and pat them dry, you don't want the stuffing to be too wet. Place the raisins, parsley,  1 tablespoon of the tarragon, the garlic, the bread crumbs,  nuts,  cheese, and the  lemon zest into a bowl  and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
4.  One at a time, butterfly the chicken breasts, and after placing the butterflied breast under a 1 gallon plastic, re-sealable bag that has been split open,  pound the cutlets to a fairly uniform 1/4-inch thickness. 
5.  Season each pounded breast with salt and pepper and layer each breast with 1/4 of the stuffing.  Roll each cutlet jelly roll style and secure the flaps with 2 or 3 toothpicks.
6.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and brown the stuffed cutlets until they are browned all over, about 7 or 8 minutes, remove to a dish lined with paper towels and set aside.
7.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the brown bits clinging to the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes and tarragon, add the bracioli, cover and simmer 15 minutes.
8.  Remove the bracioli to a clean cutting board, slice into 1-inch slices and arrange on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the bracioli slices.   Serve immediately over rice.

Next Week's Posting: Pollo Alla Cacciatora (Chicken Cacciatora)

Pollo Alla Cacciatora (Chicken Cacciatora)

Pollo Alla Cacciatora
(Chicken Cacciatora)
serves 4 to 6
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoon Extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)
2 tablespoon butter (divided use)
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
1/4  tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1 or 2  large, yellow onions peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
28 oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup red wine or 1 cup chicken broth
¼ to ½  cup balsamic vinegar (to taste)
12 Queen sized Spanish green olives, sliced
1.  Season chicken breasts with salt and  freshly ground black pepper.  In a large skillet or sauté pan brown chicken breasts in the extra virgin olive oil and butter.
2.  When chicken is nicely browned, remove from pan to a paper towel lined plate to drain and add the remaining olive oil and butter to pan if needed.  Add the onions and sauté until they begin to caramelize.  Add celery, carrots, and  garlic.  Continue to sauté (stirring occasionally) the vegetables until the carrots begin to colour.  Do not allow garlic to burn.
3.  Add tomatoes, wine,  and balsamic vinegar stirring to blend and scraping  bottom of pan to incorporate any brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan.  Adjust seasoning  adding additional salt, black pepper, red pepper  or balsamic vinegar to taste.
4.  When the tomatoes, wine, and balsamic are combined re-add the browned chicken breasts covering with sauce as well as possible.  Cover, lower heat to a slow simmer and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour stirring occasionally to avoid burning.
5.  A few moments before serving, stir in the green olives and heat for a minute or two until they are warm.  Serve over cooked rice or pasta.

Next Week's Posting: Chicken Louis

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