Wednesday, November 28, 2012

farfalle, sausage, mushrooms and peas

This is such a simple and classic pasta dish: doesn't take long to do, great taste treat, and a favorite with grandchildren. If you can find it, the classic Milanese or Monza pork sausage, Luganega, will be ideal here.

for the sauce:

five tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
two cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
one pound Luganega or other sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from the casing and    roughly chopped
eight ounces white or brown mushrooms, Crimini preferred
one ten-ounce package of frozen peas, defrosted
salt and freshly ground pepper
two tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
one tablespoon butter
one half cup freshly grated parmesan

for the pasta:

one pound of farfalle (one evening, out of the farfalle, we substituted rigantoncini. Worked perfectly)

De-stem the mushrooms and slice them in thin slices.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage; turn the heat to medium high, and cook until starting to brown. Break up into lumps with a wooden spoon while cooking. Keep the wooden spoon action going to make sure the lumps are all gone. Takes about five minutes. Set aside.

Heat two more tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan. Add the garlic and cook for sixty seconds. Add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms lose their moisture and are soft. About five minutes. Add the defrosted peas and continue cooking for another two minutes. Add a teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Return the sausage to the pan, stir, and cook another two minutes, until all the flavors are intermingled.

Meanwhile bring 4-5 quarts of water to  boil. Add two tablespoons of salt and stir. Continue cooking until al dente. Reserve one cup of the pasta liquid. Drain.

Combine the pasta with the sauce over a medium heat. Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of butter and stir well. Add reserved pasta liquid if needed to keep moist. Taste for salt and pepper. Here we take a minute: cover the pasta, turn up the heat, and steam for sixty seconds. This insures that the served pasta is hot!

Serve on heated plates with freshly ground parmesan. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

marcella #3

This is the time when the tomatoes can be at their very very ripest best. And that means that this is the time for one of the best fresh tomato sauces going. Simple. Elegant. Spectacular. This is from the world's best single volume cook book ever published, The Classic Italian Cook Book by Marcella Hazan.

This is Tomato Sauce III, which we call simply Marcella #3. Here it is (slightly adapted):

Take four pounds of those fabulous ripe tomatoes. We actually get San Marzano's from our farm outside Gilroy. Wash them and cut them in half long-wise. Put a tablespoon of oil in your pot. Put in the tomatoes and cook them over a low/medium heat to get a good simmer. Cook them about fifteen minutes, until they have started to break down and throw out a lot of juice.

Run the tomatoes through the medium grate on the moule (the food mill) and put the result back in the pot. Add a quarter pound of butter, cut into chunks. Take a good size yellow onion and peel it and just cut it in half. Toss it in the pot. Add a couple of teaspoons of salt, a half teaspoon of sugar and stir. (We add a small sprig of rosemary for a tiny special effect).

Cook over a slow but steady simmer, uncovered, for about thirty minutes. Taste  (you are not going to believe it) and adjust for salt. Throw away the onion.

Here are several other fresh tomato sauces that we like, especially the one called Benedetta with lots of basil:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

summer means basil means pesto!

Here is the classic Ligurian pesto sauce. As we say in, when you have fresh basil, the brightness of the taste of pesto can not really be adequately described.

for the pesto sauce:
  • two cups fresh basil leaves
  • one half cup olive oil
  • three cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
  • two tablespoons pine nuts
  • salt (a teaspoon or to taste)
  • one-half cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • three tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino, Romano or Toscano
  • two tablespoons butter
Using a blender (pesto was traditionally made in a mortar with pestile, but a blender works excellently), put in the basil and garlic and blend for a few seconds. Then add the pine nuts and olive oil and salt, and blend at a high speed until the sauce approaches being creamy (not too creamy, as a little roughness in the texture is wonderful).

When the blending is completed, transfer the sauce into a mixing bowl and stir in the two grated cheese, and then the softened butter, making sure you get a thorough and uniform melding.

Now ready for combining with your favorite pasta. Check trofie with pesto or trenette with pesto, potatoes and green beans, all at

Monday, March 26, 2012

fusilli with green beans and pancetta

We had planned to do a spring pasta with asparagus and pancetta, but, alas, our refrigerator was sensa asparagi. However, we had a batch of fresh green beans, just off the farm, so we went for the substitution. Success!

This is one of those pastas that just works -- perfectly! The combination simply has wonderful overtones. Other pasta of the fusilli type works equally well. In fact, we did this one once with strozzapreti (the priest chokers).

for the sauce:
  • three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • four ounces pancetta (or bacon) chopped in in quarter-inch squares
  • two cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • one medium onion, finely diced
  • one pound green beans
  • one tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • one tablespoon butter
  • one quarter cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
for the pasta:
  • one pound fusilli (or similar such as penne)
Chop off the ends of the green beans, then cut them in half-inch lengths. In a separate pot, parboil the green beans until al dente -- still crispy, and set aside.

In a saute pan over medium heat, put in one tablespoon of the olive oil and then add the pancetta or bacon. Saute for four or fine minutes until the pieces are well browned, but not crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta/bacon and put on a paper towel.

Drain the oil from the pan and then add two tablespoons of fresh olive oil. Over medium heat, add the garlic, and twenty seconds later, add the onion. Cook the onion until it is translucent, about four minutes.

Add the green beans and the pancetta/bacon, a half teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Stir and cook for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil. Add two tablespoons of salt. Drop in the pasta and stir. Continue cooking until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain.

Combine the pasta with the sauce over a medium heat. Add the parmesan and the tablespoon of butter. Stir thoroughly. If it is not moist enough to coat evenly, add some of the reserved cooking liquid to get to the right consistency. Taste for salt and pepper. Put a cover on the saute pan and turn up the heat to high, for one minute. This gets the pasta steaming hot, as it should be! 

Serve with the parsley as a garnish, and extra pecorino/parmesan on the side.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

fettuccine with corn, asparagus (and red pepper flakes)

This is a recipe for the beginning of spring, when the first fresh asparagus arrives in the markets. Even better late in the spring when both asparagus and corn are fresh. This is adapted from a recipe by noted chef Scott Conant, that appeared in a "Best Chefs" section of Food and Wine.

The recipe adds a spicy flavor which really makes it work. Plus it is simple and easy to prepare. Once again we suggest your own home-made fettuccine (see for instructions) but fine store-bought fresh egg pasta also works.

for the sauce:

  • one-half cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • six ounces of fresh mushrooms, shitake or crimini preferred
  • one clove garlic, peeled and diced
  • one small red onion (or one shallot), peeled and diced
  • one-quarter teaspoon red pepper flakes (see note)
  • two cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • one pound thin asparagus (after trimming)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • six tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese

for the pasta:
  • one pound freshly made fettuccine (or tagliatelle) (plain or spinach)

Note: Scott uses one jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced, rather than the red pepper flakes. Your choice!

Prepare the asparagus: break off the tough bottoms by holding a stalk at both ends and breaking it. Cut the usable stems on a diagonal about one-half inch in length, but leave the tips whole. De-stem the mushrooms and thinly slice. If using frozen corn, defrost it.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sixty seconds later add the onion and the red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for two minutes and then add the corn and a teaspoon of salt and continue to cook, stirring, until they are all cooked through 
-- tender but still al dente -- about two to three minutes. Add a few twists of the pepper mill, and stir.

Get five quarts of water up to a raging boil. Add two tablespoons of salt. Add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta liquid and then drain well.

Add the pasta to the heated sauce. Add the water from the reserved liquid to keep the sauce moist. Cover and turn up the heat and cook for one minute, until the pasta is steaming hot. Uncover, add the Parmesan and stir. Taste for salt, and serve on warmed plates, with some Parmesan on the side.