Pasta with Shrimp and Greens

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Pasta with Shrimp and Greens Finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Pasta is a great energy food. Bikers, runners, and those who need to pack the carbs for a sports event have known this for years. Of course, Italians have always known there was something good and wholesome about it. When you add healthy ingredients which combine to offer great flavor it is a match made in — well you know where! PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is an easy dish to prepare and has a freshness about it that should please everyone.

In the photo, I have used an artisan pasta made from tomato pesto. You certainly do not have to select artisan pasta. Any Spaghetti or Capellini of your choice would work perfectly. The sundried tomatoes bring a touch of sweetness to this that would be missed if not included. I was fortunate for this preparation to get some freshly dried ones at the Farmer’s Market and some fresh Georgia shrimp that came right off the boat the day before – ahhhh!

Warning – there will be no leftovers! Marone what a dish!


Serves: 2

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 15 minutes


8 oz. Spaghetti, Cappellini etc. prepared according to package directions – or pasta fresca!

1 Bunch Fresh Swiss Chard – Rainbow is nice! (you can also use spinach if you like)

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2-2/3 Cup Sundried Tomatoes – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped

1 lb. Large Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

Salt and Pepper to taste


Rinse your Swiss Chard and chop coarsely. Drop into a pot of boiling lightly salted water and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain well. Set aside.

In a pan, saute the garlic and sundried tomatoes for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!

Add the shrimp, red pepper, basil, and Swiss Chard. Then add the wine. Toss in the pan and cook  over medium-medium high until the shrimp is just opaque – about 3-4 minutes – no more!

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

Pour over your cooked pasta and prepare for an amazing taste experience!

This PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is one of those pasta dishes that is just perfect for patio dining or “date night” with a bottle of Falanghina – the Italian white just made for seafood!


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February:Amatriciana Sauce

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Amatriciana 2 with script named

Buon giorno!

Some of the most memorable Italian dishes are also the cherished standards of regional cooking. These are authentic representations of the very best the region offers and need no embellishment or gilding. One such signature dish from the region of Lazio (the region of Rome) is AMATRICIANA SAUCE  – a recipe named for the town of its origin, Amatrice. I prefer to call it “magical sauce.”

On the surface, the recipe is really simple and perhaps it is not immediately evident as to why this sauce is such a big deal. If we look a little deeper at the ingredients and think for a moment, the fog lifts and it is easy to see where the magic of this dish lies. As with all good Italian cooking – the secrets are just beneath the surface in the ingredients themselves. I often opine over the importance of ingredients in Italian cooking. This recipe is a perfect demonstration of how one ingredient can make or break a dish.

The secret in this dish – Look no further than the use of pancetta. Now look at the amount used – 1/2 pound. Hmmm..really? This is one of those times when no other ingredient other than a good dose of pork fat can be substituted – not ground meat – not sausage. For absolute authenticity, guanciale is the traditional meat used in this dish. Very little of this meat packs a huge jolt of flavor to any dish. Guanciale is a cured meat product made from pork cheek or jowl. However, it is sometimes very difficult to find it. What to do? The best and closest choice of substitution is pancetta which is readily available almost everywhere – – and yes, a half pound is necessary! Case in point – go ahead and make the sauce without the pancetta and compare – the difference will be HUGE! Something happens when the fat from the pancetta is rendered into the sauce and simmers for just a few minutes. Magic? Perhaps! Whatever you want to call it, the truth is that when the sauce transforms during the simmer, it becomes something quite different from the expected.

The pasta – Traditionally the pasta of choice for this sauce is bucatini. This is the long tubular noodle with a tiny hole in the middle. Perciatelli is much the same and can be used interchangeably. When the sauce creeps into that tiny hole.. well.. oh my! Of course, if you cannot locate this type of pasta, spaghetti will do.

You will simply not believe how much flavor lurks in this sauce. If you want to really grasp the notion of “magical sauce”, try this experiment. Make the dish and serve it with no fanfare. Then wait for the raves from your guests. Take your bow!


Makes: enough sauce for a pound of pasta

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


1 lb. Bucatini, Perciatelli or spaghetti prepared according to directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

8 Oz. Pancetta – chopped (easier to chop when frozen) Or Guanciale if you can find it!

1 medium onion – chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 28 oz. Can  Whole Peeled Tomatoes (San Marzano always best) processed lightly in blender or food processor – keep the tomatoes chunky no smooth

Kosher Salt and lots of black pepper

Grated Pecorino Romano cheese is preferable

Fresh chopped Basil for garnish


Begin by heating your oil in a  pan. Then add the onion and cook about 3 minutes.

2016-01-28 16.19.25 (2)

Now add the pancetta, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

2016-01-28 16.21.37 (2)

Cook until pancetta releases its fat – do not brown or crisp. This takes about 8 minutes at a strong simmer. Stir frequently.

2016-01-28 16.29.26

Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, simmer at medium for approx. 30 minutes – until sauce reduces and thickens and liquid cooks off. Stir occasionally.

2016-01-28 17.00.57

Add this amazing sauce to your pasta and toss well.

Garnish with fresh Basil and serve with plenty of grated cheese.

This AMATRICIANA SAUCE is one of the very best of traditional Italian sauces. While a Toscana would be a very good choice to pair with this dish, my pick would be a beautiful Barbera. To me it is a coupling meant to be!


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Sweet Potato Agnolotti

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SP Agnolotti Finish with script

Buon giorno!

When we think of the “filled” or “stuffed” pastas, often ravioli ,and tortellini ,or tortelloni come to mind. However, the Piemontese version from the North of Italy – Agnolotti, are perhaps my favorites. There is just something about that half moon – or “mezzaluna” shape that gets me every time. The story is often told that they were named for the chef who first made them back in the 12th century – although as with most stories centuries old in Italy, there are a few other ones going around that are a little different. You might see them also in a rectangular shape with crimped edges on 3 sides. Since I prefer the rustic shape of the half moon, that is the way we will make them. Here we have SWEET POTATO AGNOLOTTI – one bite and you’re hooked!

Found in many areas of Piemonte, you’ll often find them filled with greens – whereas in other areas of the region you will find them only filled with meat. Regardless of stuffing, they are usually served with a very simple sauce. The star of the dish is the filling. Here we will make them with sweet potatoes and a little ricotta – simple but sooo delicious. They make a perfect first course with just a few per person being enough.

They are easy to make, but do take a little time. Try to make them on a day when time is not important, and you just want to have fun and create something wonderful. Enlisting the family and perhaps the grandchildren is a great idea, making it a day to remember. Let’s create some memories of our own! Andiamo!


Makes: About 3 dozen

Prep: 30 minutes for filling; 2 hours for dough and cutting

Cook: about 5 minutes

Ingredients for Filling

1 large Cooked Sweet Potato

1 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

A little grated fresh nutmeg – optional

Instructions for Filling

Remove and discard the skin from your cooked sweet potato and place the pulp in the bowl of your food processor. Cool a little.

Add to the bowl:  the ricotta, grated cheese, salt and pepper, and nutmeg, if using.

SP Agnolotti 1

Give a few turns in the processor to complete combine the ingredients. You should have a smooth mixture.

SP Agnolotti 2

Set aside until ready to fill your agnolotti.

Ingredients for Dough

300 grams Double Zero Flour

3 Extra Large Eggs

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Cold Water

Additional egg – beaten


Place above ingredients except the additional egg in the bowl of your food processor and give several turns until the mixture comes together into dough.

SP Agnolotti 3

SP Agnolotti 4

Turn it out on a floured surface.

Knead about 5-6 minutes. Use the heel of your hand to push down on it with each turn. Really work the dough as this will make it tender.

When it becomes smooth and elastic, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest 30 minutes – IMPORTANT!

SP Agnolotti 5

When ready to use – take off the plastic wrap and cover with a lightly dampened towel. Keep covered as you use it. Break off a small piece at a time and run it through the pasta roller on ZERO or lowest setting about 3 times, folding the piece over each time. This kneads the dough further. ( I use a hand crank machine.)

SP Agnolotti 6

SP Agnolotti 7

Then run it through each of the numerical settings on your machine ending with number 7. Lay your sheet of pasta horizontally on a towel or board.

SP Agnolotti 8

SP Agnolotti 9

Brush the top edge with a beaten egg. Place a spoon of filling all across the sheet of pasta making each a few inches inches apart.

SP Agnolotti 10

Fold the bottom edge of the dough over the upper half with the spoons of filling and seal with your fingers at the top and in between each spoon of filling.

SP Agnolotti 11

Cut in half moons with a pie cutter, knife, or with a glass. Press to seal again and set aside on floured surface.

SP Agnolotti 12

Proceed as above with the rest of the dough and filling.

SP Agnolotti 13

If freezing your agnolotti, freeze them first in a single layer on a sheet pan. Then transfer to a plastic bag or container to freeze until ready to use. Do NOT defrost before using. Drop them directly into boiling water and remove them to a serving dish with a slotted spoon or spider.

Serve them with butter, browned butter, some toasted pistachios or hazelnuts, and fresh sage or fresh basil and grated Parmigiano- Reggiano or grated Asiago. (more serving ideas below)

Go ahead – Have a bite!!


For an incredible kick to your SWEET POTATO AGNOLOTTI, add a few drops of Saba or reduced Balsamic to each serving  just before serving. WOW!

Also, a sprinkle of Amaretti Cookies over the top just can’t hurt! Buon Appetito!


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September: Salsa di Noci

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Walnut Sauce – 

Noci Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Let’s put our “regional Italian cooking “ hats on and speed off to yet another extraordinary, yet sometimes neglected, region of Italy – Liguria! This region is often missed in the great attention given to Tuscany and Northern Italy etc. It is located on the northwest coast of Italy, with the port of Genoa, among the cities well known, and also is the city credited for ravioli. Of course, the fish and coastal dishes are big in this area and, in addition, this region gave birth to pesto! However, one of the signature dishes of Liguria is definitely a standout – a heavenly and creamy sauce made of walnuts – SALSA DI NOCI.

In Liguria, this sauce is most often served with pansotti, a triangular shaped ravioli. This dish originated in a small town called “San Martino di Noceto”. Noceto refers to walnut groves. The pansotti are traditionally filled with herbs and native greens which are not easily found in the US where pansotti are usually filled with cheese and spinach or some other market green. Here in our photo, you see the walnut sauce served with pasta fresca or fresh pasta in the form of a spaghetti.

The sauce is so rich and wonderful that it does not need much embellishment, when serving, beyond plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The walnuts and ricotta come together to form a sauce that is simple yet satisfying and lightly sweet. It is simply a glorious sauce.

Unfortunately, the color of the sauce along with the pasta lacks contrast and does not make for a dramatic photograph. However, the drama is all in the flavor of this elegant sauce. It is beautiful beyond words, and the Ligurians rightfully claim it as their signature dish and one so worthy.


Makes: enough sauce for over a pound of ravioli or dried or fresh pasta

Prep: about 20 minutes


1 lb. pasta or ravioli cooked

1/2 lb. Walnuts

1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (pignoli)

1 Clove Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta

1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

About a cup of pasta water (water in which you have cooked your pasta)

Extra Grated Parmigiano for serving

Fresh Parsley for garnish


Place in the bowl of your food processor: the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, parsley and Salt.

Noci 1

Process until these ingredients turn into a paste. This takes just a few minutes.

Noci 2

Add the ricotta and milk, processing to combine.

Add the olive oil in a stream as the processor is running. The results will be very thick.

Melt the butter in a pan and then add the thick contents of the food processor. Stir into the butter along with the 3 Tbsp.of Parmigiano while heating through.

Noci 4

Add the pasta water and stir in. Add more or less of the water according to your taste. The water will thin the thick sauce.

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt as desired.

Serve with extra grated cheese.

This SALSA DI NOCI is so rich that I like to pair it with a light red wine instead of the expected white. It is most often served with a white wine of the Ligurian region called Pigato. However, for me, a light red like Dolcetto seems to stand up well with the depth of this sauce without dominating it.


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Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci

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Chickpea Sauce!

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Today we travel to the region of Apulia or Puglia – the “heel of the boot” of Italy, geographically speaking. Well, which is it – Apulia or Puglia? Actually both are correct – the Latin form of Apulia and the contemporary name of Puglia. So you choose!

While we visit, we will sample what some might call its signature pasta – Orecchiette or “little ears” because of the shape. This area is well know for this lovely pasta made of semolina. They enjoy it with many sauces – but the one we will concentrate on here is ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI. This is a simple sauce and easy to make from chickpeas or ceci. No not your cousin “Cheech” from New Jersey – Ceci – prounounced (chechee) The sauce is actually a thick puree of the chickpeas with a little tomato added along with some garlic and rosemary. It is healthy and vegetarian. So simple – so delicious!

Apulia is an often forgotten area of Italy that has not been as well travelled as Tuscany, for instance, that gets all the press. However, this is an extraordinarily beautiful area of amazing seaside landscapes, providing an abundance of shellfish and also almonds, olive oil, and vegetables of note.  It is definitely a region of distinctive wine production with Negroamaro and Primitivo grapes taking the lead.

Orecchiette pasta is very commonly found these days at most grocers in the US. This dish is especially good with this pasta, although you can use other shapes if you like.


(Orecchiette with Pureed Chickpea Sauce)

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes


1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta (shaped like little ears or saucers) prepared according to package directions

2 16 oz. Cans Chickpeas, drained

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cups Chicken Broth

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Medium Onion Chopped

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3 Bay Leaves

Dash Red Pepper flakes

1/4 C. Additional Olive Oil

5 Tbsp. Tomato Paste diluted in 1 – 14 oz Can of Chopped Tomatoes. You can Puree the tomatoes or add them chopped for a more chunky appearance.

Salt and Pepper to taste


Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook at a strong simmer: the chickpeas, olive oil, broth, garlic, onion, Rosemary, Bay Leaves and red pepper flakes for about 15 minutes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 1

Remove the Rosemary springs and the Bay Leaves and discard them.

Cool the ingredients a bit and then add all from the pan into a blender, Vitamix, or food processor. Process adding 1/4 C. Olive Oil in a stream until the  entire mixture is a smooth puree.

Add the puree back to the original pan and then add the Tomato Paste and tomatoes.

Orecchiette with Crema di Ceci 2

Add Salt and Pepper to taste and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes covered. The sauce will be thick when finished and is supposed to be. You can add some water if you require it thinner.

Be sure to taste for seasoning, adding adequate salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.

Serve with grated Provolone or Parmigiano – Reggiano.

The perfect wine to serve with your ORECCHIETTE WITH CREMA DI CECI would definitely be a Primitivo from Southern Italy. The Primitivo is very similar to Zinfandel and is a lighter red. Cantele and even Layer Cake offer nice ones.


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May: Bucatini with Sicilian Tuna Sauce

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Bucatini al Tonno e Capperi

Sicilian Tuna Sauce finish with script

Buon giorno!

Sicily is known for so many dishes and several can make the claim of “ signature dish”. BUCATINI WITH SICILIAN TUNA SAUCE or “Bucatini al Tonna e Capperi” is one of them. Many who came from Sicilian kitchens will remember this Tuna Sauce made from canned tuna. CANNED? Yes – the authentic dish is prepared with canned tuna packed in oil. The flavor of this sauce cannot be overlooked. It has the essence of the sea without being fishy. It is a beautiful sauce that qualifies as “peasant food” because of its simplicity. Even so, you can tell from the photo that this sauce is well suited for guests at your table and a special dining event. I highly recommend this as one of your “on the patio” dishes for the warmer season ahead. As an added benefit, as with so many Mediterranean dishes, this is a healthy example.

Ahhhhh, Sicilia!

View from Erice - ancient city-hour south of Palermo

The tuna: Even the Sicilians use the canned tuna for this recipe, although they are on an island surrounded by all that beautiful blue water where fish abound. However, your choice of canned tuna is important. I recommend the White Albacore packed in oil. The water packed variety will not give you the level of flavor desired here. You will drain the tuna so don’t worry too much about the oil. Although any White Albacore Tuna packed in oil will do, I like to use a particular brand that I find at Fresh Market by “Wild Planet”. The tuna is “pole caught”! Yes they actually fish for it!  The flavor is really lovely, and it is packed in olive oil. It is a little more expensive that your usual brands but so worth it if you can find it.

Other ingredients: While many may remember this dish prepared in their kitchens much more simply with merely canned tuna, tomatoes, and perhaps garlic or onion, the more authentic preparation includes capers and sometimes olives. The capers are drained but not rinsed as in many recipes, as you want a touch of the brine to flavor your dish. The olives are your choice. The pitted black ones are used here, but I often make this with the Sicilian Castelvetrano Olives – which you know as the beautiful vibrant – bright green olives found in olive bars and even in jars among your grocer’s condiments these days.


Of course, the fresh herbs more than make this dish. You simply will not achieve the fresh and truly authentic flavor using dried herbs here. Reminder: no cheese is necessary or desired with this lovely dish of the sea.

The pasta: Bucatini or Perciatelli is the traditional pasta type use for this dish. The tiny hole running through each strand traps the goodness of the sauce. This type of pasta is just MADE for the tuna sauce. You can also use Capellini or Linguine – as both are used often successfully for fish sauces and would be fine for this one. However, I like the traditional, and you see the imported Bucatini used in the photos.


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: about 20 minutes


1 lb. Bucatini or Perciatelli Pasta – cooked according to package directions

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 Onion chopped

1 Fennel Bulb chopped (optional)

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Cans (5 oz.) White Albacore Tuna packed in oil (see above for my favorite tuna for this dish) – chopped just a little

1/4 C. Fresh Basil chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes – drained with 1/2 cup of juices reserved

1/4 Tsp. of red pepper flakes

1/4 C. Capers, drained – not rinsed

1 Cup Whole Pitted Black Olives or Castelvetrano Olives (bright green Sicilian ones)

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Extra fresh Basil for garnish


Heat oil in a pan and add the onion and fennel.

After cooking about 6 minutes on medium high, add the garlic and cook another minute.

Then add the tuna and the herbs– do not chop the tuna too finely. Just give it a few whacks with the knife.

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 1

Add the 1/2 Cup of reserved tomato juices along with the tomatoes after crushing them with your hands or in blender. Do not puree the tomatoes. This should be a very chunky sauce which is why I like the hand crushing method.

Add the red pepper flakes, and cook at a strong simmer for about 15 minutes (cooking out much of the liquid and concentrating the flavors).

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 2

Add the capers and olives for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Gently stir so you won’t break up the tuna too much.

Sicilian Tuna Sauce 3

Serve with lots of fresh chopped Basil!

Another finish with script

You and your family and guests will be surprised and happy with your BUCATINI WITH SICILIAN TUNA SAUCE. No one will believe so much flavor and finesse came from canned tuna. Grazie to the Sicilians for knowing best on this one. Grab yourself one of the lovely Rosés available for warm weather dining and enjoy. One taste and everyone at your Italian table will say “BRAVA!”


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Orzo with Campari Tomatoes

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Orzo finish

Buon giorno!

Sometimes the simplest things just hit the mark. ORZO WITH CAMPARI TOMATOES is one of those simple sides that is great with everything. It is appropriate with so many meat and fish meals, is attractive on your table, and never gets old. Is it just plain old pasta with tomatoes? NO! Orzo is a lovely “rice like” pasta without the graininess. It cooks quickly and holds its shape well. The flavor in this dish is fresh fresh fresh!

Can’t you use any tomato? The answer is of course you can, BUT if you want to get the full “bang” out of this dish – you will use only Campari Tomatoes. These are the always perfect little gems sold in the box at your grocer. They are available all year not just in the summer. The flavor of these tomatoes is distinctive and unequalled in sweetness. They are so sweet that they balance the savory quality of this side dish just perfectly. If you use other tomatoes – the dish will be fine but you will miss the unique sweet flavor that these Campari Tomatoes add to the dish.

Herbs: You will want to use FRESH herbs in this one. The result is simply not the same with dried. Choose from which you prefer of these two herbs and also from what you have – Either fresh parsley or fresh basil will do it.

Garlic: Again you will want fresh garlic here and be sure to chop it very finely.

A versatile dish! Serve it hot or cold (room temp). Either way is lovely. To add a little something – turn it into a salad with a little Red Wine Vinegar. This is especially nice in the warmer months when you are “on the patio” and eating outside. The dish travels well! If you make it ahead, be sure to taste for seasoning just before you serve as pasta often absorbs flavors and needs refreshing.

Make this one of your go-to sides!


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes + pasta cook time


1/2 lb. Orzo pasta cooked according to package directions

6 Campari Tomatoes – chopped coarsely (Just look at these beauties)

Campari Tomatoes roasted_001

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/4-1/3 C. Chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt and fresh black pepper to taste


Prepare your orzo as package directs.

Chop the Campari Tomatoes, garlic, and, herbs. Add them to the orzo.


Drizzle generously with your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.


If you like, you can prepare your Orzo with Campari Tomatoes ahead and serve it at room temp or cold by adding some red wine vinegar and making it a salad! Always refresh your seasoning when making ahead.


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Chicken Agrodolce With Pappardelle

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A Rabbit That Clucks –

Chicken agrodolce finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Trick question: when is a rabbit not a rabbit – but.. a chicken? It is when you enjoy the delectable CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE.

A signature dish of some regions of Italy – coniglio all’agrodolce – is made with rabbit and prepared in several different ways. The rabbit hops a path to tables in Piemonte in the North, the hills of Tuscany, and the forests of Campania. It has now even become a featured dish on the menus of regional Italian restaurants here in the US. It is great “eating” as hunters say, with no game flavor, tender and easy to prepare.

Looking back to our little kitchen in upstate NY, my father, Attilio, “hunter extraordinaire”, made sure our freezer was always full of game. We had all kinds from deer to quail – and also rabbit. It was one of my favorite things, and my father knew how to prepare it with unequalled skill. The way I liked best was “agrodolce” – sour and sweet. It was tender and almost sweet – the kind of flavor that made you lick your fingers. Oh… the sauce. Just before my first child was born my Dad asked me what he could cook for me. It took about 30 seconds for me to tell him that I required one of his amazing rabbit meals. I enjoyed and remembered it like no other. And yes, it resulted in a happy mother, and a very happy child.

In my household today, you probably won’t find one of those rabbit dinners, as there are no willing hunters. Also, we have over the years become so fond of some of our domesticated rabbit friends that it just wouldn’t seem right. What to do?

I have found that rabbit meat and chicken thighs are quite similar in texture, flavor, and are both easily acclimated to one of my favorite cooking techniques – braising. Caution: The fragrance coming from your kitchen will attract the neighbors.This braised dish using the chicken thighs is sure to fool your guests with its similarity to rabbit, and make them yell for more. The meat is unforgettably tender. The sauce has a tiny bit of sweetness which offsets the vinegar in the dish. The sauce is so lovely and aromatic, I can’t emphasize it enough. It is simply perfection with papardelle pasta, as seen here, with gnocchi, and also with the more traditional polenta. Try them all!! OOOOO how I love this dish! Hint at how much you will enjoy this: it ranks as one of “Tom’s Favorites”!

Bunnies have nothing to fear here but the chickens better hide! Chicken thighs are great candidates for several of the Italian regional preparations for rabbit that I happen to love. Here is one of them!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: about 50 minutes


1 lb. Pappardelle Pasta (wide) or gnocchi,or polenta cooked according to package directions

4 Chicken Thighs – boneless and skinless

Flour for dredging

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil +  a little more if needed

3 Oz. Chopped Pancetta

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1 Onion chopped

1 C. Dry Red Wine

1/4 C. Fresh Sage Leaves – chopped

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tbsp. Sugar

1 C. Chicken Broth or stock

1 Tbsp. Butter


Dredge the chicken thighs on both sides in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Chicken agrodolce 1

Heat butter and oil in pan and brown both sides of the chicken pieces and remove them to a platter.

Chicken agrodolce 2

Add a little more oil if your pan is dry. Then add the pancetta, garlic, and onion. Cook at medium high for about 3 minutes.

Chicken agrodolce 3

Then add the wine and the sage and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Chicken agrodolce 4

Next add the vinegar, sugar, and chicken broth to the pan. Stir in.Turn chicken pieces so they are coated with the sauce.

Chicken agrodolce 5 - with stock added

Now cover the pan and let simmer for about 40 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over once during cooking to make sure the chicken is well coated with sauce.

Remove the chicken pieces to a platter again and cut them into small strips.

Continue to simmer the sauce to reduce slightly for just a minute or 2.

Then strain the sauce into a sauce pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Just heat through.

Add the chicken pieces back to the sauce and pour over the noodles, gnocchi, or polenta – whichever you decide to use.

Garnish with whole sage leaves, and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese.

Serve your CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE with your favorite Chianti Classico or Montepulciano di Abruzzo. Prepare to be dazzled!


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April: Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Sauce

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Baked Rigs Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Italians are known for their endless baked pasta ideas. It seems like everyone has one or more. This one is a little different as the sauce is made with ground lamb instead of pork, sausage, or meatballs. What’s the difference? Let’s look closely at this recipe for BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE to find out.

Begin with the lamb: Italians eat a lot of lamb especially in the spring. It is simply a tradition. Could you just as easily use ground beef in this recipe? Well…yes you could do that, but the flavor would be very different. That is what is so unique and amazing about cooking with lamb. Where you start is not necessarily where you end up. Beef cannot possibly achieve the level of flavor that you will get from the ground lamb. Before simmering the sauce has a completely different flavor. When you finish – it is a different story entirely.

The preparation: This is a simple dish – and easy to put together. It is built in layers and comes together in about 40 minutes. It is one of the more flavorful baked pasta dishes mostly because of the use of lamb instead of beef or even sausage. As almost always, I recommend using fresh herbs.

You, your family, and guests will just love it.


Serves: 4

Prep and Cook: About 40 minutes


1 lb. Rigatoni, Mezza Rigatoni ( as you see in the photos), Ziti, or Penne – cooked according to package directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion Chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 C. chopped baby carrots – chop into small bits

2 Stalks Celery – chop into small bits

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 lb. ground lamb

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 14 oz. Canned Tomatoes – crushed or blended slightly

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

10 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – cubed

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish


Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs in the olive oil for about 5 minutes at med. high heat.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 1

Add the ground lamb to the pan and brown – about another 5 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and cook another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes and add the salt and pepper.

Then cook about 15 minutes more.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 2

When finished remove from the heat and let sit a minute to cool. Then add the cream and stir in until blended.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 3

Add the sauce to the pasta and pour into a 15 x 9 inch rectangular baking dish.

Sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix in.

Distribute the mozzarella cubes around the pan and gently mix in.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 4

Baked Rigs - Lamb 5

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and “oozy”.

Garnish with Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley and serve!

*For an interesting addition – try adding a small scoop of warm ricotta cheese, flavored with a little grated Parmigiano, black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley an on each serving.

I like a lovely Barbera D’Alba with this BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE.


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Tagliatelle Della Duchessa

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Duchessa finish with script

Buon giorno!

In my next life, I want to come back as an Italian “duchessa”. They seem to have all the fun. They have dishes named for them that are rich and memorable. TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA from the region of Emilia-Romagna is one of them. There are too many of these “duchessas” to list, but one of note, Maria Luigia d’Austria, the duchess of Parma and Piacenza is said to have visited a town in the region’s Samoggia Valley, called Bazzano, and the rest, as they say, is history. The dish of dishes which we discuss here was named in her honor.

A little tutorial: Regional Italian dishes are my passion, and the region of Emilia-Romagna provides a bounty of  interesting recipes. This region is probably the best known in the arena of incredibly rich regional foods. Called the “gastronomic heart of Italy, the region is plentiful in the some of the most prized ingredients of Italian cuisine: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamico, Parma Ham, mortadella, white truffles and the frequent use of butter and cream in cooking. The calories from this region are ripe for the ingesting, and you only have to inhale to begin the experience! Yes, the food is undeniably rich but unforgettable.

Another important food of note from the region is pasta – but isn’t pasta everywhere in Italy? Si! That would be true, but it is even more prominent and important in this region. Pasta fresca  (homemade pasta) is revered here. The famous pasta dough from Emilia-Romagna, or sfoglia  (sheet of pasta), is known the world over – eggs and flour.

Pasta Sfoglia, also from this region, is a kind of puff pastry which  is used for pastries like the well known sfogliatelle.

The Pasta: The most authentic version of this dish, is made with fresh Tagliatelle, which you see here as a semi wide noodle. You could, however, use another pasta, if you like.

The Sauce: This is a really beautiful dish and is so easy to prepare in the tradition of Emilia-Romagna with butter and cream. The chicken livers are just browned and sauteed a little in the butter which a signature preparation of many foods in Emilia-Romagna. There are not many ingredients required, but those that are – come together to make a rich and wonderful sauce for the pasta. A little fresh parsley and you’re done!

The dish is simple really. Just look at the list of ingredients. However, they come together to create a heavenly traditional example of the one of the best of preparations for this region.


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes


1 lb. Cooked Tagliatelle  – fresh made or another similar pasta

5 Tbsp. butter

3/4 lb. Chicken Livers

(1 Cup of Green Peas can be added  – although they are not in the authentic preparation. I add them sometimes just because they work and I like them!)

3 Egg Yolks, room temperature

2/3 C. Warmed Heavy Cream

1 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated (the premier cheese from the region)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Lots of Fresh Italian Parsley for garnish


Prepare your pasta. You will want it to be timed to be piping hot when you add some of the ingredients below.

Pat the chicken livers dry with paper towels. This is a MUST, so they do not steam. Then cut them into pieces.

Duchessa 1

Cook the chicken livers in the butter in a shallow pan until they are browned and cooked through – about 8 minutes.

Duchessa 2

Duchessa 3

Add some salt and pepper.

(This would be the time to add the peas if using them.)

Make sure your pasta is hot at this point!

Immediately add the livers to the pasta and toss.

Duchessa 4

Mix the egg yolks with the cream and add to pasta right away, mixing well. The yolks will cook on the hot pasta.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss.

Duchessa 5

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Garnish with lots of fresh flat leaf Italian parsley and serve!

This beautiful TAGLIATELLE DELLA DUCHESSA begs for a vino rosso that is bright but not too heavy like a Toscana or a Barbera. The perfect regional pairing would be a DRY Lambrusco from the area, but they are hard to find in the US. If you happen upon one – Buona!


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Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce

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Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

We hear so much, as Italians, about the famous Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. We could recite so many of those traditional dishes: Stuffed Calamari, Baccala Salad and Soup, Smelts, Eel, Octopus, Codfish Balls, Clams Oreganata, Clam Sauce etc. The list is endless. Some of you less familiar might be a little unsure about trying some of those dishes. Today we have a pasta dish that everyone will love that isn’t quite.. shall we say.. exotic? ORECCHIETTE WITH BABY SHRIMP AND PROSECCO SAUCE is a delicately flavored pasta dish that is suitable for this famous feast, but also for a lovely candlelight dinner anytime of the year –or even New Year’s Eve.

Orecchiette is a form of pasta that is shaped like little cups. It may not be familiar to you, but it is easily found in the dry pasta area of most grocers. Orecchiette actually means “little ears” in Italian’’.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 1

The Orecchiette is so appropriate for a sauce as lovely as this one, that it deserves to become trapped, if you will, or caught in the nooks and crannies of each little “ear”. PRESECCO SAUCE is definitely one of those sauces – delicate, almost sweet, and light even with the presence of cream. This sauce and pasta are just waiting for a special evening as a beautiful first course or for the main event.

An added benefit to the making of this simple dish is the aroma while it’s cooking. Oh my my my…

And.. yes .. it contains butter. I heard on TV recently that butter is back, and it’s all good now. Oh realllly– I was not aware that it ever left!

As if you needed another reason to make this, there is the Prosecco – light, bubbly, and festive – drink it right along with the sauce as you cook it.


Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes


1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

1 Whole Shallot finely chopped

1 lb. Raw Baby Shrimp, peeled

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Basil

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/2 C. Prosecco

1/2 C. Heavy Cream – warmed

1 Tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh chopped basil for garnish


Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drinking the Prosecco as you prepare the sauce is highly recommended for preparing the mood!

Melt the butter in a pan with the olive oil. Cook the shallot in the pan until tender.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 2

Add the shrimp, garlic, and basil – simmer a minute to blend.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 3

Dissolve the tomato paste in the Prosecco and add to the pan.

Cook down about 5 minutes at a strong simmer.

Turn off the heat – cool a minute and add the warmed cream, stirring in to blend.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 5

Add the tablespoon of butter, melt and heat through.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add sauce to pasta, mix, and garnish with basil before serving.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce finish 2 with script

Of course, to serve your ORECCHIETTE WITH BABY SHRIMP AND PROSECCO SAUCE,  the obvious choice of pairing is…PROSECCO!


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Pasta Cacio e Pepe

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Buon giorno!

Cacio e Pepe – cheese and pepper – what more do you need?? Not much I say to make the easy, rustic, and traditional PASTA CACIO E PEPE – Pasta with Cheese and Pepper which is one of the signature pasta dishes of the Lazio region where Rome is located.

So what’s the big deal – cheese and pepper? Believe it or not – the combination is really quite wonderful when prepared in the proper way. The idea is to heat butter and a little olive oil to the point where the cheese melts into it. This happens quite quickly and the pepper is added. This very simple sauce is added to hot pasta and the rest of the story is the absolute ecstasy which awaits in your bowl. Is it that easy? Really? As in most Italian dishes, the answer is yes – it is just that simple. A lot of extra ingredients are not necessary. The key to remember is that your ingredients MUST be good. This means no cheese from the “green can”, no margarine, etc. The best of ingredients insures the best of Italian dishes always.

Very often Pecorino Cheese is the recommended choice of grated cheese for this dish – especially the Pecorino Romano of the region. However, since it carries some additional saltiness with it, I like to combine it with some Parmigiano-Reggiano which seems to be the perfect blend for me.

Let’s look at Roman food for a moment…

My mother’s family was from Minturno, a beautiful coastal city, in the region of Lazio, and growing up – I was accustomed to many of the Roman dishes which she made for us that are so representative of this region. Remember that this area dates back to ancient times, and the recipes are sealed in the ancient culture which was once the heart of an empire and remain favorites today. There was the abbachio – the milk fed lamb prepared at Easter, the famous Carciofi alla Romana and alla Giudia – one braised  – the other deep fried and crisp, the Stracciatella (no not the gelato!)  – the delicate chicken based soup with lemon, cheese, and strained egg, the spicy Arrabbiata Sauce, and Agnello al Scottadito the baby Lamb Chops grilled or seared so hot as to burn the fingers!

Now that I have your attention and you are sufficiently hungry – let’s get on with PASTA CACIO E PEPE  one of the great Roman dishes, known for its simplicity!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes


1 lb. Spaghetti or Pasta Fresca (this is really best with fresh pasta!)

3/4 Cup Reserved Pasta Water (the water your pasta cooks in)

1 Stick Butter

4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino Cheese

1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

1 Tbsp. Fresh Coarse Ground Black Pepper or Cracked Black Pepper (I have seen more pepper than this used, but this amount works best for me)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a final drizzle

Additional grated cheese for serving


Cook your pasta according to directions and reserve 3/4 C. of the pasta cooking water.

Make sure to time your pasta so that it is very hot when you mix it with your sauce.

Melt the butter in the oil in a pan.

Cacio e Pepe 1

Add the grated cheese and the pepper.

Cacio e Pepe 2

Add 1/2 cup of hot pasta water to the pan. Stir and melt the cheese into the butter and oil quickly. As soon as this happens, you are ready to add this sauce to your hot pasta.

Toss it well and add the additional hot pasta water as needed to the pasta. You may not need it all.

Give the pasta a final drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve with additional grated cheese.

I like to serve my PASTA CACIO E PEPE with a medium bodied vino rosso. A Chianti Classico would be perfect!


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Pasta Salad Alla Norma

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Buon giorno!

One of the classic Sicilian pasta dishes is the famous Pasta Alla Norma. There are many variations of this dish mainly consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, and Ricotta Salata Cheese along with some hot pepper flakes.  It is a personal favorite of mine which made me curious about how it might be if one were to serve it as a pasta salad at room temperature with a few additional touches – and thus we have PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA.

Before we dive into the recipe, it is probably a good idea to answer a question first: Who exactly is Norma and why does she get a pasta dish named for her? Norma was the tragic heroine of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name. This opera and character was so revered in the 19th century by the Sicilian people that they named a pasta dish for her. The opera is heavy on the melodrama including much about fire and funeral pyres – thus the inclusion of hot pepper flakes in the dish.

This rendition is more of a room temperature pasta salad including all of the classically required ingredients and the addition of a couple of extras like the famous Sicilian olive called Castelvetrano after a Sicilian town in the province of Trapani. You might know these olives by their absolutely brilliant and vivid green color – almost a blue green. They are gorgeous, mild, and fruity. I just love them and include them in cooking because of their mildness and extraordinary color. They contribute to giving this dish its gorgeous presentation.

Add in some red wine vinegar and pignoli nuts – and you end up with some “wow”!

This is a really flavorful dish. My husband who likes meat in everything makes a couple of exceptions and this is one of them. He just loves it!

Traditionally Pasta Alla Norma calls for shaved Ricotta Salata – a solid salty ricotta cheese which I suggest here. However, if you can’t find it, a nice Pecorino will fill the bill.

Let’s get on with it, as I can hear Norma wailing at the pyre now – and it is hard on the ears!!



Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 25-30 minutes


1 lb. Cooked Pasta (I like a chunky pasta for this like Ziti, Mezza Rigatoni, Strozzapreti, Fusilli Pugliese, Penne etc.)

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Early Girl Tomatoes, or Campari Tomatoes – cut

4 Cups Sliced and Cut Eggplant as shown in photo (peeled or unpeeled)

1 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

1/3 Cup Chopped Italian Parsley

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 Cup Pignoli Nuts (pine nuts)

1 1/2 Cups Pitted Castelvetrano Olives

Shaved Ricotta Salata Cheese ( you can substitute Pecorino if needed)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Cook the pasta according to package directions.

You can press your eggplant a couple of hours ahead if you like to rid it of any bitterness. Do this by slicing it and layering between paper towels. Then put some heavy weight on top. After a couple of hours, discard the paper towels and proceed with the eggplant as suggested.

Norma 1

Choose some gorgeous ripe sweet tomatoes for this. These are “Early Girls”.

Norma 2

Mix the tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes together in a bowl.

Pour olive oil and vinegar over the top of the above, add salt and pepper, and mix gently.

Pour onto a baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until the eggplant is fork tender and to your liking.

Norma 3

Add the olives and the pignoli and gently toss.

Pour all of this over the cooked pasta immediately along with any juices in the pan. Mix together.

Top with shaved Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Cheese.

Add a drizzle of a nice peppery extra virgin olive oil.

Serve your PASTA SALAD ALLA NORMA at room temperature or cold, if you like, as your main course or as a beautiful side dish with a nice bottle of Sicilian red – like a Nero D’Avola.


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Pasta Al Pesto Trapanese

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Trapanese Sauce

Finish - Trapanese with script

Buon giorno!

As pesto goes – this is my all time favorite. The Sicilians have a lock on this one in any “Best Of Pesto” challenge, in my view. PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE is not only a delicious pesto sauce – it is one of the most delicious Italian sauces I have had.

One of the wonders of this sauce is that it is made FRESH – all in the blender. Yes – that’s right – all the ingredients go into the blender and whirl away to a beautiful thick sauce. It can’t get any easier, folks! Vegetarians and health conscious individuals will love it! The sauce consists of all good fresh ingredients which are really good for you. It is a very satisfying dish, while maintaining a lightness appreciated for warm weather dining.

This sauce is so versatile. It can be served hot or cold – making it a great summer dish  – great for patio dining – and terrific for a crowd. It is traditionally served with spaghetti, but when I serve it to a larger group buffet style where spaghetti would be difficult to manage, I turn to one of the short chunky pastas for ease of serving and eating. Here you see it served with Rotini pasta or “corkscrews”. It is just as delicious on Rigatoni or Penne. You choose! It makes a beautiful dish to serve for indoor “at the table” dining over spaghetti or pasta fresca. Its lovely pink color and creamy texture makes for a memorable presentation of an authentic regional dish from the island of Sicily.

Sicilian regional food has several differences from the other regions much of which relate to its history of conquerors. Over centuries, Sicily’s occupation by the Moors and the island’s proximity to North Africa account for the region’s use of many interesting ingredients and food preparations that are usually not found in the other regions of Italy. This is illustrated by the frequent use of dried fruits and nuts in Sicilian cooking. This particular dish is named for the famous Sicilian city of Trapani, a trade center, whose position on the coast is very close to Africa.

As Kay said in “The Godfather” – “This Sicilian thing has been going on for two thousand years”. Well, she may not have been referring to their food when she said it, but in that respect, these Sicilians really know what they’re doing! The proof is in the sauce!

The ingredients:Trapanese Sauce requires almonds – an interesting and very different ingredient that one would not think of connected with Italian sauces for pasta. Yet, because this sauce is really a form of pesto, the nuts really work and you don’t taste them much when eating this sauce. The tomatoes provide both color and flavor, and the very freshest and juiciest are advised. They give the sauce its pink color which sets it apart from the pestos we are used to seeing. I have found that Campari Tomatoes work well when I can’t get a really good ripe fresh tomato at the markets. They provide sweetness and the right amount of liquid. Fresh basil, of course, lends familiarity as an ingredient involved in most pestos. The Red Pepper Flakes provide a touch of heat that I particularly enjoy in the sauce – giving it a slight edge. For the cheese – I like a nice sharp Pecorino!

1 Ingredients

2 Almonds

3 Pecorino

This sauce is amazing – warm or cold – you will love serving it! Now if you really want to get serious about the “Sicilian Thing” – throw some capers over each serving! Bellissima!


Serves: 6

Prep: less than 30 minutes


1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, pasta fresca, or even any of the short chunky pastas

1 – 1  1/3 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes (plum, cherry, grape, Campari – anything ripe!) cut in pieces

1 C. Almonds – skins on are fine – toast them a little to bring out the flavor!

2 Fresh Garlic cloves

1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (salt & pepper really bring out the flavor)

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (this is the time to use the good stuff!)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

FOR GARNISH: Some additional fresh Basil Leaves, Whole Almonds, or even some Capers!


Cook your pasta while you make the sauce.

Place all of your ingredients except for the cheese in a blender or food processor and whirl! (My word for “run the machine”!) You want to create a smooth puree. Use your spoon to get all of the ingredients incorporated. Taste for seasoning and adjust appropriately.

4 Ready to mix - Trapanese

Pour sauce over the cooked spaghetti or whatever type of pasta you are using and toss well.

5 Trapanese Sauce

Now add all of the cheese, and toss again.

Garnish as suggested above.

NO COOKING NECESSARY. This is a fresh sauce served over your warm pasta to serve warm or refrigerate the pasta and serve cold.

You won’t believe how good this is! If you have leftover sauce, all the better. Refrigerate it and serve it over rice or chicken.

The very best wine pairing I can think of with PASTA AL PESTO TRAPANESE would be a lovely Sicilian vino rosso – medium bodied like a Nero d’Avola.


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July: Mac and Cheese Italian Style

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Mac - finish with script

Buon giorno!

OK – Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. Usually the opposite is the case – can’t get enough of it – want it every day – can’t resist it when it is served. This one will get the attention of the all who love the cheesy oozy comforting goodness of this classic dish. Only this time – we’re giving it that Italian “edge” with MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE! If you can resist this one – Calabrisi does not end with an “I”!


We’re taking a slightly different turn with this though. It is not the orange colored mac and cheese we are so used to seeing from those… boxes. I make this with all kinds of short pastas – you choose! It is great with gnocchi as well. This recipe uses Fontina – the Italian melting cheese with the nutty flavor – that will take care of the OOZY. We add White Cheddar for the CHEESY. The Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago is there.. well, because why in the world wouldn’t we want it there??? The wine gives it that hint of loveliness, and we get touch of sweet from the butternut squash. You get the idea! We add one flavor level after another – until we hit the max… and then… we add (optional but incredible) seafood – lobster or shrimp. We have just cracked the ceiling of culinary heaven!


As if that is not enough – those who look for that something extra which makes this a truly distinctive and complex dish will finish with a “touch” of White Truffle Oil – oh YEAH!! Actually, I probably had you at Fontina – but gilding the lily is just, well, fun. So why not go for it. I think I can actually sense some palpitations here and with good reason. This is a VERY special dish!


Serves: 6-8

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes


1 lb. Short pasta or gnocchi – cooked

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Chopped Pancetta – chops easier if partially frozen!

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Flour

3/4 C. White Wine or Dry Vermouth

2 C. Half and Half or heavy cream – warmed

1 C. Grated Fontina

1 C. Grated Sharp White Cheddar

1/2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

1/2 C. Sliced Black Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

2 C. Chopped Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 C. Sliced almonds

1 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs (not dried)

Drizzle of White Truffle Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

OPTIONAL BUT AMAZING: 1 lb. Cooked Lobster Meat or 1 lb. Cooked Shrimp


Roast the Butternut Squash tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside.

1 Roasted Butternut Squash

Cook pancetta in oil and butter until just crisp.

Add onion and cook until tender.

2 Mac and Cheese

Add garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic!!

Add the flour and, stirring, cook the rawness out for a couple of minutes.

3 Mac and Cheese

Add the wine – cook a couple of minutes at medium high. It will thicken.

5 Mac and Cheese

Reduce heat a little and add the cream, stirring until it thickens again.

6 Mac and Cheese

Add the cheeses and melt in, stirring. Taste for seasoning. I like freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt.

7 Mac and Cheese

Add the olives, basil, squash and seafood, if using. Stir in.

8 Mac and Cheese

Toss the pasta with this sauce fully incorporating it. Use ALL of the sauce as you want it very “saucy and cheesy”.

Pour into a buttered baking pan or individual baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and sliced almonds.

9 Mac and Cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pop under the broiler  for a minute if it is not golden brown on top from baking.

Drizzle with the white truffle oil – just a bit as a little goes a LONG way with this pretty amazing addition! — or drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve your MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE as a main course or as a side at your next grilling event. Prepare for raves on this one!!! Take your bow and…


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