Drowned Veal

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Vitello Affogato – 

Drowned Veal finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

I love the uncomplicated nature of Tuscan cooking. The Tuscans seems to have mastered the art of the simple rustic dish. DROWNED VEAL or VITELLO AFFOGATO is one such dish.  This recipe hails from the town of Arezzo. Using simple but precise and perfect ingredients, as described here, a splendid meal fit for a dinner party can be created in just a few minutes. The authentic preparation calls for veal, as the Italians just love to cook and create with this tender meat. However, you can just as easily use boned chicken breasts and have the same tender result that everyone will enjoy.

A little history:  There are many who credit the Tuscans, via Catherine de Medici, with teaching the French a thing or two in the kitchen. It is said that she introduced veal to the French among so many other culinary delights. But why did the French seem to surpass the Tuscans  – for a while – in terms of the entrée or meat course when so many famous dishes were born in this beautiful region of Tuscany? Actually, it had nothing to do with cooking – but had everything to do with diverted attention. In the Renaissance period, the Italians experienced a little attention deficit in regard to their fabulous dishes in favor of the “arts” – that is, art in general,  like sculpture and painting. Thus, we saw the rise of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and others of note. With patrons like the Medici family devoting themselves and their resources to these artists, less emphasis was given to the great dishes of this region. You get the idea – the French took the proverbial ball and ran with it, while the Italians were busy creating other things – or so the story goes. In any case, the Tuscans had already laid the groundwork for some of the best and most famous dishes that we enjoy to this day – like the veal dish we study on this post.

OK! Let’s address the elephant in the room – the “drowned” reference. No we are not suggesting that you drown a calf for this recipe. However, we can probably attribute the name of this dish to the method of cooking it – low – slow – and swimming in a gorgeous sauce. Actually, if you hunt, you will find that Italians like to “drown” a number of things in the kitchen and give them the moniker “affogato”. (not necessarily a bad thing from my perspective!)


(Vitello Affogato)

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 1 hour


3 Fresh Garlic Cloves

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

8 Veal Cutlets (Can substitute Chicken Breast) – pound thin

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder (optional)

1/2 lb. Sliced Wild Mushrooms – any combination

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme leaves – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage Leaves – chopped

1 14 oz. Can Chopped tomatoes

1 Tsp. Tomato Paste

Salt and Pepper to taste.


Lightly saute garlic cloves in oil for just a minute

Brown veal cutlets in this same oil for just a few minutes – just brown quickly on each side.

Drowned Veal 1

Add the wine and porcini powder if using it and cook at a strong simmer for another minute.

Drowned Veal 2

Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, tomatoes and paste.

Drowned Veal 3

Stir well to combine – then cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes. The sauce should thicken. Add a little water if too thick.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed

Remove the garlic cloves before serving.

Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Drowned Veal finish with script

VITELLO AFFOGATO is an elegant and authentic Tuscan veal dish that is easy to make and can be ready in a matter of minutes. Serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta! Adhering to my “thing” for regional Italian concentration, I like a wine from the region of Tuscany with this dish – Rosso di Montalcino is my choice – not as big as its cousin, Brunello or as “oaky” –  but really lovely with the veal and tomatoes.


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March: Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

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Cousin Bebe’s Ricotta Gnocchi-

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce - finish 1 with script

   Buon giorno!

I have this Cousin Bebe, who is an amazing mother, wife, and friend. She also cooks like a dream and is into hunting for the very best ingredients. You can already tell that we are sympatico in the ingredients department. Although – I must admit that she would walk farther for good baking chocolate than I would! Mostly, I love her because she makes me laugh on a regular basis – for that alone I would be ever grateful!

During one of our marathon conversations recently, she shared a dish with me that she loves with ricotta gnocchi and mushrooms that really sparked my interest. She said that a chef- friend of hers turned her on to it, and she was passing the idea on to me. I loved the idea immediately and ran with it! I tweaked it a little adding my own twist here and there, and my version of RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOMS was born. Bebe will find many changes to the original recipe. I hope she enjoys the new “take” on this dish!

About 5 star dishes at our house: I have a tough crowd in my kitchen with not only me critiquing dishes, but also my family. My husband, who has gained a more discerning palate over time, has ranked this dish among his “5 star” picks! He just loves it. It was kind of surprising, as he is not a big gnocchi fan – but these gnocchi changed all that. He simply loves this!

Some thoughts on this dish: It can be vegetarian although chicken broth is called for in my recipe. Change to vegetable broth if you like. I prefer the chicken – but no harm – no foul. One suggestion is that I like the gnocchi ingredients to be room temperature before making them. Also – and the Italians from birth in the crowd can appreciate this distinction – often gnocchi are fashioned ,after cutting, into “cavatelli- like” shapes by using the two finger method. In this case, I stop after cutting, leaving them in the little pillow shapes. I just like them that way in this dish – a better visual – and I think they remain light, not acquiring more flour. I find than Ricotta Gnocchi are a little lighter than potato, and weighting them down with more flour does them an injustice, I think. Believe me on this one – you can’t mess these up!

About the mushrooms: It is no surprise that I elected to use Wild Mushrooms for the sauce, as I run with any opportunity to use them. It is a love affair with me and these wild ones as many of you know having followed my recipes. I roast them first to give them a deeper flavor and added a surprise ingredient – a little Balsamic Vinegar before roasting which is subtly detectable in the finished sauce and offers another level of flavor that is only achieved by the caramelization. This addition makes the difference between just a mushroom sauce and one that immediately piques interest when it hits the palate.


I think of this dish as in the Northern Italian style, especially with the use of butter and mascarpone as the cooks of the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia might suggest. In Lombardia, they would probably use the wonderful Porcini mushrooms, plentiful in the lake area.

This dish requires a little time in the making of the gnocchi. The sauce – on the other hand – comes together quickly.

The gnocchi may be made ahead and frozen by spreading them out on a sheet pan – freezing them in a single layer. Then you can transfer them, once frozen, to a ziploc bag until ready to cook. Do not defrost before cooking. Drop them into the boiling water straight from the freezer.

My enthusiasm for this dish runneth over!! These gnocchi simply rock! I can’t wait for you to try them!


Serves: 4

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes


2 Cups Flour +  Flour for the board

2 Large Eggs

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese – Whole Milk please


You can start the old fashioned way by pouring the flour onto a board – making a well and placing the eggs and ricotta in the middle. Proceed by mixing the dough with clean hands.



It is much faster and easier to put the flour, eggs, and ricotta into your food processor and with a few turns, the dough comes together almost immediately! It will be sticky. Put some flour on your hands and place some flour on your board or surface. Take some of the dough out of the processor bowl with your floured hands – make a ball and roll into a 1/2-3/4 inch thick rope on your floured surface.


With a sharp knife, cut the rope into small 3/4 inch sections or “pillows”. (They will look like little pillow shapes)

finished gnocchi

Continue with all of the balls until you use all the dough. Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour. (I like the gnocchi for this dish to remain in pillow shape. Often we roll the pillows each more time through flour with two fingers to roll them or over the tines of a fork. If you prefer to do this you can.)

You can make the gnocchi ahead and freeze them which makes this a very easy dish to prepare for guests. To freeze: lay the gnocchi in a single layer on a sheet and put them into the freezer. When frozen, put the gnocchi in a ziploc bag, seal and place in freezer until ready to use them. Do NOT defrost them before using.

Drop the gnocchi into rapidly boiling water (straight from the freezer if frozen). I like to boil them in 1/3’s giving them a stir after dropping them in. Remove them to a serving dish when they rise to float at the top of the water – about 3-4 minutes. Very quick!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20-25 minutes total


1 lb. Assorted cleaned wild mushrooms of your choosing (Regular button mushrooms can be used, but the wild ones offer a more earthy flavor to the dish.)

Olive oil to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder  – Optional (sometimes hard to find)

3/4 C. Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

3/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/3 Cup Mascarpone Cheese (optional)

Grated Asiago Cheese to serve


Spread the cleaned mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and then follow with a light drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 4

Remove from oven – slice or leave whole and set them aside along with any juices that flowed during roasting.

Put olive oil and butter in a large fry pan, melting the butter.

Add the mushrooms, juices, garlic, rosemary, porcini powder if using, wine, and broth to the pan. At medium high heat, rapidly bubble for 6-8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced down to 1/2 and slightly concentrated. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 5

Turn off the heat. At this point, if you are using the mascarpone,which I recommend because the sauce becomes so velvety and rich – add it, stirring, and melting into the hot sauce. If you choose not to use the mascarpone – the sauce is still lovely though not as rich.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 6

Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the cooked gnocchi. Garnish with a little Rosemary and serve with grated Asiago.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE is such a beautiful dish to serve.It is one of those dishes you dream about later. Yeah, it’s THAT good! Although the preparation is simple, the flavors are complex. I have to agree with my husband when he says “this is a 5 star dish!”



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Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil

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Mushroom Pasta 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Much is made of the worth and special distinction of the truffle – the roundish, lumpy “fungus” found under the roots of trees and sometimes hunted using very special pigs and dogs, with a sense of smell known only to the divine. However, the White Truffle, in particular, draws the oohs and ahs of most chefs and gourmands.  Even the French expert, Savarin, called them the “diamonds of the kitchen.”The White Truffle is considered one of the most revered of cooking delicacies. Of very special note is its use in the dishes of Northern Italy where the much valued White Truffle is found. Here, the use of this treasured ingredient in the form of oil, in the dish, WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL, is representative of many of the dishes of the Langhe area of the Piedmont region.

As with many prized ingredients, the White Truffle is not for everyone. It has a very “funky” and earthy smell and taste which is pronounced. It is often lightly grated on dishes, and it doesn’t take much of it to make its presence known once added. As much as it is valued, not all savvy foodies appreciate it. Sometimes I think it is because they experienced too much of it at once. A very small amount is sufficient. It is extremely expensive and puts it out of the price range of most food shoppers.

Along with wild mushrooms, the fall season usually heralds the arrival of the White Truffle in the finer Italian restaurants, it often makes a much touted entrance. I remember dining in a fine regional Italian restaurant and thought I almost heard trumpets sound the introduction of the White Truffle to the dining room. Well – maybe not trumpets – but the chef did emerge from the kitchen with an assistant in tow, pushing a cart clothed in white, featuring a tall glass dome with a tiny lump of a musty gray substance under it. They scurried over to one of the tables and proceeded to lightly grate the tiniest amount over some risotto–followed by an audible OOOOO and AHHHH. Quickly, they hastened back to the kitchen with the cart and domed prize only to disappear behind closed doors. This little fanfare bore a tidy price tag!

Well – so why would we want to mortgage the farm for this tiny bit of grated ecstasy? We wouldn’t! There is another way that we can appreciate the joys of the White Truffle – and that is using White Truffle Oil.

White Truffle Oil

It is sold in most specialty markets most often in small bottles. Yes, it is more expensive than Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually – but the idea is to use it in very small amounts. Less is indeed more! The very tiny amount is not only sufficient but also just enough to give the dish a sensational essence of earth without making you run for the exit. Tiny is all you need!

The fact is – when you use the oil properly and sparingly, as we will in this dish, it is quite lovely and transforms the mushroom pasta to something quite desirable. The combination of the White Truffle Oil and the wild mushrooms, is one of those marriages heavenly inspired. They join well with the butter, used so often in the dishes of the Piedmont to produce a very rich, serious, and quite beautiful fall dish you will love to serve in the presence of a roaring fire and a fine bold vino rosso.


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 10-15 minutes


5 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/3 C. Pancetta chopped

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic finely chopped

1/4 C. Finely chopped Shallot

3/4 Cup Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

1 lb. Assorted Cleaned and Sliced Wild Mushrooms such as Crimini, Porcini, Shitake, Oyster etc.

2 Tsp. White Truffle Oil + more for drizzle before serving

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

Grated Asiago or Montasio Cheese (Both of these cheeses are from Northern Italy and are perfect for the dish. Parmigiano may be substituted.)


Melt butter with the olive oil in a pan. Add pancetta and cook 2-3 minutes.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 1

Add garlic and shallot and cook 2 minutes more.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 2

Then add the mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and herbs. Cook a couple of minutes more at medium high.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 4

Pour in the vermouth and cook at medium high until it reduces down by 1/2.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the 2 Tbsp. butter to finish.

Wild Mushroom Pasta with White Truffle Oil 5

Add to the pasta and toss well to coat. (Fresh made Tagliatelle was used for the photo. Fettucine or Spaghetti are also fine for this dish.)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Add the additional 2 Tbsp. Butter and toss into the pasta.

Drizzle with a small amount of White Truffle Oil. Do NOT over pour with this oil. Just a small amount is sufficient. It is quite powerful.

Serve with the grated cheese.

Because I most often like to serve wines from the region of origin for a particular dish, I would pair WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL with a more serious choice of wine from the north, perhaps from the Langhe where the White Truffle is found, such as Barolo or even Barbera d’Alba. I like a high tannin presence with this dish to stand up to that funky quality of the truffle and the earthy nature of the wild mushrooms. Neither of these choices, I don’t think, would disappoint!


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November: Wild Mushroom Soup –

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Wild Mushroom Soup best


Buon giorno!

In our house, holiday recipes are set in stone. There is always a soup and it is usually of the mushroom variety as a perfect nod to fall. WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful addition to any fall meal – especially a holiday one. I love wild mushrooms – any type. This soup combines an earthy blend of the wild ones with leeks to make a simple beautiful soup – appropriate to begin a meal – or as a meal in itself. As an added incentive – you can make it ahead and freeze it.


I grew up in a household that actually revered these little funghi. My father, Attilio, made it his personal mission to hunt for as many of the wild mushrooms in the varieties he knew that he could, so that my mother, Loretta, could freeze them for use during the months ahead. He only gathered the ones he was sure of and often went with his friend , Coco, from the First Ward area of Binghamton, who was considered an expert. We loved the wild ones. Read more about Attilio’s wild mushroom hunting in my Wild Mushroom Pizza post.

Wild mushrooms


Why wild? There is a difference in flavor – they are a little stronger – and better. There is also a difference in texture. Just bite into one and you’ll see. Fortunately, for all of us today, it is easy to go to most markets where we find so many different varieties available – even the dried kind which are very good when reconstituted. I like a nice variety of the wild mushrooms for this soup. They give the soup such a beautiful flavor and because they are pureed at the end, they create a creamy soup even though there is NO cream in the soup at all!


Don’t save this one for a holiday – enjoy it all winter long. You’ll love it!


Serves: 6-8

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 30-35 minutes


3 Leeks – cleaned and sliced thinly using the light green and white parts only

leeks - light green and white parts

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Oil

3 Whole Shallots – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2  Tbsp. Flour

1 lb. Assorted Sliced Wild Mushrooms ( Shiitake, Porcini, Crimini etc – whatever you like)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

Pinch Fresh Ground Nutmeg

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

7  C. Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Sage for garnish

Optional: Balsamic Glaze – drizzle for garnish if desired. This can be strong – use just a tiny bit.


Clean leeks as directed HERE    & slice thinly.


Chop shallots and garlic and saute with the leeks and red pepper flakes in butter and oil – covered –  until tender for about 10 minutes at medium high heat.

Photo Sep 25, 2 56 06 PM

Add the flour and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Photo Sep 25, 3 08 29 PM

Add sliced wild mushrooms, sage, nutmeg and wine – stir.

Add the broth and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes at a strong simmer.

Photo Sep 25, 3 22 43 PM

Next – puree the mushroom mixture. I like to use an immersion blender for this. It is easy and can be done right in your pan. You can also use a food processor, processing the mixture in batches . Either way –  puree the mixture until it is smooth. If there are a few mushrooms left floating, that’s ok.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Garnish with fresh sage and a little drizzle of Balsamic Glaze, if you like ,for a little brightness. If you do use the glaze – be VERY sparing, as this has a lot of flavor, and you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate soup.

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful velvety soup that can be served as a first course or as a meal along with some crusty bread and salad.


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Pork Scaloppine with Wild Mushrooms

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Scaloppine di Maiale E Funghi–

Pork Scaloppini

Buon giorno!

Here in America, we are used to the standard favorites when it comes to Scaloppine (Scallopini). You know the usual suspects: Veal Scallopini Marsala, Veal Francese etc. We’re going to talk about a different Scaloppine from the Tuscan area of Lucca which uses pork tenderloin – PORK SCALOPPINE WITH WILD MUSHROOMS ( Scaloppine di Maiale e Funghi). If you think you love the others, just wait until you taste this one. There’s a new dish in town – and “she’s hot!”

About the pig:  Using pork tenderloin for this dish is not only the authentic preparation, but it also makes for melt in your mouth cutlets. It is so easy to slice your own cutlets. Just lay out your tenderloin after patting it dry, and using a sharp knife. Steady the tenderloin with your left hand while you cut the very thin slices from the top middle out, slicing away from you. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask your butcher. It’s really easy if your knife is very sharp though, and you might give it a try. If you have pork issues, you can substitute veal or even chicken. I much prefer pork for this, however. It provides the most tender cutlets.

Pork tenderloin does not have a lot of flavor on its own. In this dish, the flavor is enhanced by the addition of the pancetta, the vermouth, and the fresh sage.

The great thing about using pork tenderloin is that it does not require a long cooking time. This is a dish that almost cooks itself in just a few minutes. It is lovely enough to serve to guests as well as your family, and does not require you to work all day in the kitchen to do it.

As always, I highly recommend using humanely raised 100% Heritage Pork from: Circle B Ranch. Their pork products are unequalled, in my estimation, in both quality and flavor.

Funghi: I suggest using wild mushrooms with this dish. They give and earthy depth of flavor to this dish that button mushrooms just can’t provide. You can find some form of them at most grocers now. But, if you don’t have access to them, button mushrooms will be fine.

Serving: For this demonstration I served this Scaloppine  with Orzo, an Italian pasta that is rice shaped. It is fairly common at many markets. To prepare, I just cooked it as directed, and then drizzled it with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, added some chopped fresh sage, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt and pepper. Simple is best!

It is also lovely served with polenta or risotto or even mashed potatoes.

The sauce is the star of the show with this dish. You won’t believe the flavor. This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. We had it recently outside On the Patio with a beautiful Rosé. Pretty amazing!


(Scaloppine di Maiale e Funghi)

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes


About 1 1/3 lb. Pork Tenderloin

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/4 lb. Chopped Pancetta

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage

3/4 lb. Wild Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

3/4 c. Dry Vermouth

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

Fresh Sage Leaves for garnish


Slice your tenderloin into thin cutlets. Steady the tenderloin with your left hand while you cut the very thin slices from the top middle out, slicing away from you. Use the entire pork tenderloin.

Pork Scallops 1

Heat olive oil and pancetta in a large shallow pan or fry pan.

Cook a couple of minutes.

Pork Scallops 2

Add the pork scallops and brown quickly just a couple of minutes each side. Don’t worry if they are still a little pink in spots, as they will cook through later. Remove scallops to a separate dish.

Pork Scallops 3

In the same pan, add the garlic, sage and mushrooms. Sauté a couple of minutes.

Pork Scallops 4

Add the pork scallops back to the pan, stir.

Pork Scallops 5

Dissolve the tomato paste in the vermouth and add it to the pan. Stir and reduce down a little, scraping bits off the pan bottom for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and simmer about 5 minutes.

Garnish with sage leaves and serve.

See recommendations for serving in the above text.

You will LOVE this dish!


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Serving Polenta

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Polenta Gets its Groove On

Buon giorno!

So I left you with your Polenta stretched lazily out on a board, platter, or pan – waiting patiently to be dressed and ready for the party. It’s kind of like having everything on but your earrings. “Whatever shall I do?”- pined Scarlett. What next? It is in Serving Polenta that the dish comes to life!


No one I know just eats Polenta. You kind of need to dress it up a little. It is the stage  – not the performance. However, it is such a key menu item so as to totally transform any dish that includes it. By virtue of its existence on the plate, it takes any stew, sauce, meat or fish recipe to a new level. Besides that, it simply tastes great with anything you decide to serve with it. Even Broccoli Rabe or a simple fried egg shine a little brighter when paired with Polenta. All that and you can make it a day ahead if you like, and also its one of the easiest things to make. One of my readers, Grace, who resides in Denmark, loves to prepare her Polenta, porridge-style, with chicken bouillon, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and a drizzle of Truffle Oil and snipped chives. I can think of nothing better – heavenly – so simple, yet such a perfect combination of flavors.

Of course, the traditional serving method in the South of Italy is the Polenta with Sauce and Meatballs!

Traditional Polenta with sauce and meatballs  with script

My “Nawthern” Italian friend, Tony, tells a story about the “Triestini” (as he calls them) members of his family up near the northern border in Italy, making their Polenta in the very traditional copper pot. At the end of the process, a solid crust is left inside the pot that they call a “helmet”. The children run around the house after the cooking is finished wearing this “helmet” on their heads. The last time he visited them, they prepared their Polenta with rabbit. Tony, misunderstanding the dialect for a moment, thought the ragu contained buckshot. After many hands flying and gesturing, and finally taking to the kitchen, Tony figured out they were referring to Juniper Berries! I so love this story!

One of the most interesting and unique ways to serve Polenta, in a dome shape, is offered by the “godmother” of Italian cooking and someone I think of as a mentor, the great Marcella Hazan. She instructs: when your Polenta has just finished cooking, wet a large bowl or individual ramekins for individual servings with some cold water and swirl it around. Then pour in your polenta.


Smooth the top and put it aside for 10 or 15 minutes and then voila! Just invert it onto your serving plate or individual plates.


But wait! It gets better! Take a spoon and gently scoop out a well in the top of your dome.


You get it now don’t you? Serving Polenta this way makes the perfect little nest for your stew, sauce or whatever. It also lasts for days in the refrigerator.


Hold on—get ready to see later in this post how we’ll fill this thing.

Let’s make a very simple and rustic dish with sausage and wild mushrooms and maybe a little Madeira for a touch of sweet drama. This promises to be a delicious little something that is easy and quick to make.  You can substitute slices of beef – preferably tenderloin – for the sausage if you like.  Prepare it the same way as for the sausage only leave your beef a little on the medium rare side. It can be a dinner, lunch, or a GREAT brunch dish – definitely provocative served in the dome shape but just as lovely served on squares of Polenta that are fried or grilled.


(Sausage and Mushrooms)

Serves about 4

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 –1 1/2 lb. Sausage pieces removed from casings ( mixture of mild and hot)

6-8 oz  Wild mushrooms – mixed (or Creminis or Baby Bellas) and sliced

1/2 Large onion

1 Clove Garlic – chopped finely

1/2 c. Madeira or Sherry

1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary

1/2 c. Golden raisins (Soaked first in a cup of boiling water to plump for about 1/2 hour)

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley


Saute the sausage until just browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and reserve.


To the same pan, add the onion and garlic – Saute until tender.


Add the wild mushrooms and cook stirring about 3-4 minutes.


Add the sausage back to the pan & add the Madeira or Sherry.


Add in the Rosemary and cook down until the sauce reduces a little.

Then add the raisins. Mix together and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through.


When finished add the chopped fresh parsley.

That’s it! Easy enough?

OK! Let’s change things slightly. So let’s say you made your Polenta yesterday. It has set in the pan and you are scratching your head wondering what to do with it.

Take out your pan and cut the Polenta into squares. Now you have a choice: 1. You can heat the squares and serve;  2. You can fry them;  3.You can grill them.





Last, but with more than a little drama, we have the DOME with the Sausage and Mushrooms. Troppo Bella!


Now you have to admit – this was NOT difficult.  There are not too many ingredients to juggle. You can make your Polenta a day ahead if you like. You can also make the Sausage and Wild Mushroom dish, Salsiccia e Funghi a few hours ahead as well. So plan your Carnevale party or any party or brunch and dazzle your family and friends by Serving Polenta!




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MY WILD SIDE!” Wild-Mushroom_01_thumb1 Buon giorno! Bet you think perhaps I’m about to reveal some deep dark untamed  period in my youth. WRONG! I must say the subject of my musings today is wild and rather fervent—but not of the type you may have hoped I would share. Sorrrry!… no secrets revealed here. However, I must opine about a lifetime longing or passion for which there seems to be no means to abate. I LOVE WILD MUSHROOMS!! No not in the “like to have them once in a while sense” but more like I gotta have ‘em – “kind of hopelessly addicted sense”. (Before we get too excited – I do not refer to the naughty mushrooms of Alice’s “trip” to Wonderland – let’s get that straight right from the beginning!) I have been known to specifically shop for the wild mushrooms first and then decide what I would do with them much later. The ladies can relate as many of you understand the “need” for that amazing “must have them” pair of shoes that goes with nothing in your closet and perhaps might be more comfortable or appropriate housed in a museum than on the foot. YUP! That’s it! That’s the perfect comparison. Strangely, my addiction began at a very early age. Let me explain. In our house, wild mushrooms were revered. I experienced them early and often in my childhood and thought pretty much everybody did. I just loved them. My father, Attilio, would hunt for them at the suggested time of year. He knew several types of the “wild ones” and only picked those on his own. He was extremely careful about the ones he picked and always cautioned us about never eating or cooking with any we weren’t absolutely sure of because of the toxic nature of some species. He was so meticulous about the process of picking that we never worried much about  getting sick. This is something he did not take casually. When he brought them home my mother, Loretta, froze them so we would have wild mushrooms to enjoy for months on end. One of my favorite dishes using the “wild ones” was a dish made with the mushrooms along with sausage, red wine, tomatoes, and, of course, red pepper flakes. Crusty Italian bread made this dish a runner-up to heaven.  Because she froze so many of the mushrooms, we always were able to have Loretta’s amazing Wild Mushroom Risotto on New Year’s Day!     Attilio especially loved the Popinki’s or Polish Honey Mushrooms. So we always had those at a surplus. One place he “hunted” Popinki’s was not far from our house in a wooded area on upper Glenwood Avenue in Binghamton, New York where we lived. He also picked a variety called a white, hooded type called Shaggy Manes – which he named Daisy Mae’s. (He had a name for everything and everybody! A couple of times a year Attilio would sometimes take my brother, Richard, who recalls a tree on upper Glenwood where they would harvest a large Ram’s Head (also called Hen of the Woods or Sheeps Head) mushroom every year with the permission of the owner.  This large mushroom variety looks like a cabbage or a large flower and can weigh as much as 25 pounds! It has an earthy, “gamey” flavor. The larger ones are a little tough and are often found on Oak Trees and stumps. One year they eagerly returned for the mushroom and, sadly, the tree was gone.  On many occasions, my Dad had a friend from the First Ward in Binghamton named “Coco”, who sometimes accompanied him and knew other varieties of wild mushrooms, and he would guide Attilio in picking those. As my father aged and could no longer “go picking”, Coco faithfully brought him a couple of baskets a year of the Popinki’s.  Caution: I would not advise anyone to pick and eat wild mushrooms without a good deal of knowledge and recognition of what is safe or perhaps a degree in Mycology ( the study of fungi). Few types cause fatal results, but many can cause allergic episodes. You really need to know what you are doing here. Also, some areas where you might find them are protected.  Wild mushrooms in so many varieties are not so wild anymore. My best advice is to buy them – buy them in quantity – and safely enjoy the HECK out of them! We are so fortunate now to have our local growers supplying so many different types to our Farmer’s Markets.  Think LOCAL as much as possible!  Even Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and your neighborhood grocers have gotten into the act. You will find everything you desire from the very dear Chanterelles to Trumpets to Porcinis to Creminis ad infinitum. If you haven’t tried them, you must. I insist you join me in this pursuit of these wild things!  The difference is a tasty, earthy, sometimes buttery depth of flavor you could never experience in the average button  mushroom. They add so much to every dish. You’ll be happy you did. Wild-Mushroom_021 Curiosity piqued? Just because, my enthusiasm for your trying these jewels knows no bounds – I will provide a luscious excuse for you to experiment.  The following Pizza is one of our favorites –always a winner at our table –  purely vegetarian  – with ingredients that always deliver individually – but most certainly come together for a mighty crescendo of earthy delight. I guarantee, your guests will love this one. Troppo Bella!



Begin with the recipe for Pizza Dough from our previous post Pizza – That’s Amore (click here for dough recipe) Or use your favorite store bought dough. Olive Oil – small amount to spread on dough Whole bulb of garlic roasted as per instructions below. Fresh mozzarella – grated or thinly sliced Assorted wild mushrooms – about 1/2 lb. Try to use some Shitakes as they provide a buttery flavor to the mix. Given a quick saute in olive oil, Kosher Salt and Pepper Fresh Rosemary and Fresh Oregano – about 1 Tbsp of each 3-4 oz. Goat Cheese Large Slivers of Ricotta Salata Cheese Extra Virgin Olive Oil Prepare dough and stretch onto stone or pan. Rub dough with a little olive oil.

To Roast your bulb of garlic: Remove the outer skins of garlic bulb. Place the bulb, with the top cut off exposing the cloves, in foil – drizzle with olive oil – add a little Kosher Salt – Seal the foil and Roast in 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Roasted garlic is mild and nutty flavored and can be use in countless ways as its usually sharp, pungent and offending odor and taste is muted. When ready to apply to pizza – just gently squeeze bulb – the soft roasted cloves will ooze out easily. Squeeze roasted garlic directly onto dough- smash it- and spread over the dough with a fork.


Place grated or sliced fresh mozzarella on dough. Saute fresh sliced wild mushrooms lightly in a tiny amount of olive oil, Kosher Salt and Pepper – Spread mushrooms over the  pizza. Sprinkle with fresh oregano and fresh rosemary.


Dot pizza with Goat Cheese.


Shave large slivers of Ricotta Salata Cheese over top.  Place in oven at 500 degrees for 10-15 min. til crust is golden and crisp on the bottom. PIzza_0017a

Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil to serve.


I recommend my favorite St. Bernardus Belgian Abbey Ale with this pizza OR Hannibal Lecter’s favorite “a nice Chianti”! (Click here for Hannibal !)




Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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October: Sausage and Figs

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Recipe of the Month — October 2010


I call this a Hunter’s Dish as it reminds me of game dishes my father used to make with the quail, rabbit and duck that he would hunt and then prepare for us “agrodolce” or sweet and sour. The dishes always contained some kind of fruit. He surely would give a special nod to our use of his beloved figs in this dish.

2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Medium Purple Onion cut into 1 in. pieces
1 c. wild mushrooms assorted
1 1/2 lb Italian Sausage browned separately and sliced ( duck or lamb sausage is good also)
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
1/2 c. red wine (preferably what you will be drinking with meal)
2 Medium-Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – Cooked- skins on and cut into 1 1/2 in. pieces
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
8 oz. Fresh Figs quartered  (about 8)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Fig Preserves
1 1/2 Tbsp Fig Vinegar

Sauté garlic and onion in oil about 5 min. Add mushrooms and cook on med. heat for about 5 min. Add sausage and thyme – then add red wine and cook down on Med. High for about 5 min. Lower heat to Medium and add preserves and vinegar and cook about 2 min. Add potatoes and toss to coat all.  Season all with Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir. Add figs just before serving and toss to coat.
I like to serve this with a crusty bread and a good Barbaresco which stands up to the hearty and earthy nature of the sausage and mushrooms.

Serves 4.


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