Category Archives: Recipe

Pasta with Young Poppy Leaves (le Rosole)

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It’s not the same, but almost. And mind-blowing good to eat.

In Santarcangelo, where legend has it the Sangiovese grape gets its name, my wife and I have lunch and dinner at Trattoria del Passatore. We go there for many things, chief among them ravioli served with a rosole sauce.

Rosole, also known as papavero in Italian, are young poppy leaves. You see fields of poppies in Italy, with their brilliant red flowers. The leaves are harvested and used in a pasta sauce, well before the plant flowers. Continue reading

The Ragu Hour

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It’s time well spent.

Ragu recipes abound. Here’s what works for me: An onion, a dab of ground meat, wine and peas, tomato puree. This recipe makes ragu that will sauce pasta for four people.

In olive oil saute half an onion the size of a tennis ball. Bigger is better. Onion adds sweetness and soul to a sauce. Chop the onion, roll it in olive oil until it takes on that transparent look.

chopped-onion

Next break up a quarter pound of ground meat. Beef is fine. Veal is fine. Pork or lamb or buffalo are fine. Some recipes call for a combination of meats. Break up? Scatter bits of the meat over the onion bed, raise the heat, jab and roll the mix for five minutes or so. Salt and pepper.

Lower the heat and cover the pan, cooking the meat down a little more. You’re lightly browning it; you’re releasing and activating the fat in the meat. (Note: if you use a lean meat like buffalo, you’ll need to add a little more olive oil.)

Wine makes this sauce fragrant. I add a third of a cup of red wine. Some recipes call for white. Do what works for you (or use what you have on hand). I like a deep dark sauce, which makes me a red man. Cover and cook ten minutes or so on medium heat. You’re cooking the wine down and should get something that looks like this:

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Now half a jar of tomato puree. And now, if peas agree with you, half to three-quarters of bag of frozen peas.

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Raise the heat to get your mix cooking, then cover the pan and lower the heat. It cooks. In 30 minutes it looks like this:

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Spurn spaghetti or linguini when you have a gutsy ragu like this. For this sauce you want a wide noodle, like tagliatelle or fettucine, or a pasta that “holds” the sauce like garganelli, wheels, or campanelle.

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See how those peas get nestled in the pasta? There is no greater food than pasta with ragu. Shown above: pork ragu with campanelle.  Oh, baby.

Pomodori gratinati al forno (tomato, oven, heaven)

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Wait ten minutes and your kitchen smells like heaven.

For the longest time, I thought of this as a summer dish. Perhaps because I was conditioned to seeing my mother-in-law bring in a haul of tomatoes from her garden and work her magic on them. Then I saw the error of my ways—the utter foolishness of denying myself the pleasure of pomodori gratinati al forno–oven-roasted tomatoes–in the off season.  Continue reading

Chickpea Me

 

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How can something so simple be so good?

A few years ago my wife and I spent a weekend in Naples, the one in Italy, where we had pasta with chickpeas. The dish was life-changing. It’s so easy to prepare, so hearty and healthy, I can’t understand why I don’t cook it more often. Like every week.

Now, about those chicks. When I have the time and my wits about me, I stop by a local Iraqi market and buy dried chickpeas, soak them over night, and cook them up (low heat, olive oil, salt and pepper) for a couple hours. Otherwise, when I am witless, which is more often the case, I buy canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans, we say in the U.S.), rinse them, and get right down to business. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Thistles?

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Cooking seasonal and sensational

The affectionate term for them is gobbi—hunchbacks. I’m talking about cardone, that distant cousin to artichokes. A stalky plant with raised ribs, cardone resemble celery. Like the artichoke, cardone is a member of the thistle family. Just seeing (or hearing) the word “thistle,” if you know the prickly plant, you feel a wave of caution. Handle with care, yes, but eat them with great pleasure. Continue reading

How to Satisfy Your Green Tooth

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Glorious green!

We had our neighbor here in Michigan to dinner one day. He was educated in Rome and traveled extensively in Italy during his time there. That day we ate a dish of pasta, enjoyed some wine, and talked. After clearing the table for the next course, I placed a pan of spinach in the middle of the table.

He laughed. “I bet this is the only house in Southeastern Michigan serving spinach from a frying pan.” Continue reading

Leftover Love

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What do you do with your leftovers?

When I was a kid, some nights my mother served a dish she called “round potatoes.” They were patties 4-5 inches wide, 3/4 inch thick, fried in a cast iron skillet. My brother and I loved them. It never occurred to us that we were eating leftovers, though now it’s clear these were recycled mashed potatoes.

Ah, leftovers. Culinary alchemy makes gold of them. Continue reading

No clams? No problem!

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How to make a great pasta sauce in 30 minutes

In my wife’s region in Italy—San Marino and Romagna—you’re likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce. Wait, let me revise that statement. In my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and in the kitchen of my wife’s old aunt over there, you would be very likely to find pasta served with tuna sauce–like the local spaghetti with clams, only tuna. And red.  It is crazy delicious. Where we live, in the US Midwest, you don’t find clams. Well, they’re there. But if you’re picky about clams, you’ll picture a “do not touch” sign, in neon, close by. Tuna, on the other hand, is available. Continue reading

Pork Roast: Dreaming Backward, Dreaming Forward

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How to make a great roast and hardly lift a finger

It’s 4:00 a.m. I’m awake, in the kitchen, still not quite on local time since coming home from Italy. Times like these, I think about pork roast. It’s  a way of dreaming back to Italy. Yesterday I bought a three pounder—pork butt, bone in—from Nick, my local butcher pal. What’s there to do at 4:00 a.m.? Get to work on lunch. Dream backward and forward. Continue reading