Cavatelli with Beets, Cacioricotta and Pistachios

•April 5, 2014 • 4 Comments


Pink pasta! My daughter ate this 2 nights in a row, totally clueless to the fact that it was actually healthy, all she saw was pink and she liked it. I love beets, their jewel-like color, all of the vitamins that they pack in and their earthy flavor. They have been hard to find lately, not appearing in the market at all and only available in vacuum-packed bags, pre-cooked. Not too tempting.

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I was super happy to finally find these at the market, with their greens still attached and still very fresh. I have been itching to try this recipe and even though I changed a lot of it using what I had at hand, I like the browned butter and the process of grating the beets raw as opposed to roasting them. Despite my pink fingers and my longing for the Cuisinart that I had to abandon in the US, grating the beets is a perfect short-cut to deliciously cooked beets and you don’t have to heat up your kitchen too much.


Of course this is a perfect healthy pasta for little girls who are pink and purple obsessed. Not only is this pasta delicious and fairly healthy, it is also beautiful, the ruby seeping into every pore of the cavatelli. I honestly didn’t think I could pull the wool over my daughter’s eyes, she’ll go through phases of trying everything and then back to wanting the same thing everyday. She’s been in a “Bread and Jam for Francis” state this week, but I managed to suck her in with color, now I need to figure out how to get more protein and add the greens without her noticing.

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Cavatelli with Beets, Cacioricotta & Pistachios

adapted from The New York Times

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds beets, peeled and finely grated
  • beet greens
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 pound fresh or dried cavatelli
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup grated cacioricotta or ricotta salata
In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 5 tablespoons of butter. Cook until foam subsides and butter is a deep hazelnut color, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.) Stir in beets and season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until beets are very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook cavatelli until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup cooking liquid.
Transfer pasta to the skillet with the beets, toss with most of the reserved liquid over a medium flame. Remove from the heat and toss in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Plate the pasta and add the grated cacioricotta and the pistachios. Serve immediately. 
YIELD 4 servings

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One Year Ago: Spaghetti con Seppie e Asparagelle

Two Years Ago: Puntarelle Pugliesi

Four Years Ago: Pastiera

Five Years Ago: Cornbread Dressing, Collard Greens & Southern Cheese Biscuits


•April 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Nothing new going on over here, no recipe to follow today, but after making this gorgeous fish, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to show it off and talk a little about how I like to cook fish. If my fish isn’t in risotto or a pasta, I usually make it the same way, either in parchment, roasted or poached. The most important thing about buying fish is that you make sure that it is fresh, this is the reason that I always like to buy fish with their heads still attached to their bodies. I want to be able to look them in the eye, and see if there is still a sparkle in there. I also want to make sure that all of their parts are still attached to their insides because that is another great indicator of a fresh fish. We are looking for red gills, not pink ones.

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I also prefer my fish to have all of its parts because it adds flavor to the meat, which is why I add so little flavor when I am cooking it. I want to taste the fish, I don’t want to taste anything else. Fish has such a delicate flavor, that even lemon can sometimes be too overpowering, even a drizzle of olive oil for that matter. If they are going in the oven I always stuff their bellies with garlic and parsley, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I will sometimes add lemon slices or substitute a different herb for the parsley, but I rarely mess with the skin of the fish and never add spice. This is the Italian approach, which is always simple and always rooted in the superiority of the ingredients. They don’t need to add anything, because adding means that you are masking the flavor, and if you are masking the flavor then it probably isn’t fresh in the first place.

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This is a mormora, or a striped seabream, not a fish that you find easily in the fish market, but it caught my eye and judging by the enthusiasm on my fish monger’s face when I asked about it, I figured it would probably be delicious. I can trust my fish monger to give me an idea of what type of fish I am getting if I don’t recognize it, he’ll tell me if it is a white fleshed fish, if it is oily, boney etc. I love that, I am such a foreigner in that fish market, a head taller than all of the little old ladies and men. They all turn their heads when I order, especially when I ask questions, which I assume are bizarre questions in their minds. I guess they were born knowing the name of every fish at the market, or their parents taught them. I am learning, but I did not grow up on a peninsula which stems off of another peninsula.

I am so glad that I didn’t go with my regular spigola or orata, fish that I love, but they are always available and it is always nice to try something new. The mormora was delicious, I hope to find them again soon. The roasted vegetables are like the roasted fennel that I made a while back, but I added potatoes to the mix. Boiling them first for a few minutes, shaking them up in the pan and then adding them to the fennel.


One Year Ago: Kosher for Easter

Three Years Ago: Catalogna

Four Years Ago: Cavolfiore alle Olive

Five Years Ago: No-Knead Pizza Dough & Risotto with Scallops, Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes


Carbonara with Roasted Cauliflower

•March 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment


We LOVE carbonara, who doesn’t? When we were in Rome a few weeks ago, we paid a visit to Checco Er Carettiere in Trastevere, where I believe they make the best carbonara in any restaurant in town, the best amatriciana too. It was a reminder of how much we love it, even though I prepare mine in a very different way, adding onions, not using any cream and using the whole egg and not just the yolks. I also use short pasta and not spaghetti, making them, in the end, two totally different plates of pasta, but equally delicious.

To stray even further from tradition, Romans love tradition. I thought I would add some cauliflower to the mix, adding a healthy element to the pasta. I roasted the cauliflower first and mixed it into the pancetta and onion mix minutes before tossing it all together, I didn’t want the cauliflower to get mushy. It was a nice flavor element, adding a bit of texture as well. Delish.

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Carbonara with Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, clean an cut into small florets
  • 150 grams (5oz) guanciale or pancetta (we used regular bacon when we were in the States)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 eggs (one per person, one for the pot)
  • 1/2 lb of rigatoni
  • 4s tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put cauliflower in a roasting pan, drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil and a pinch of salt, toss. Roast, turning once or twice, for 20 minutes or so, until cauliflower just starts to soften.

In the meantime, fill a large pot with water for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Cut pancetta into small slices, chop onions. Heat the pancetta in a heavy skillet over medium-low, as the bacon starts to sizzle, add onion. When onions starts to turn a golden brown add the oil and turn the heat to low. The onions and the pancetta will caramelize, but you don’t want them to burn.

In the meantime crack eggs into a small bowl, add pepper to taste and beat until well blended. You want them to be at room temperature by the time you add them to the pasta.

Once the water starts to boil for the pasta add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the pancetta and onion right before you drain the pasta.

When the pasta is perfectly al dente, drain the pasta, but leave the flame on at a low flame. Return pasta to the pot on the low flame and add the onions, pancetta and cauliflower. Toss to cover the pasta and add the egg. Stir the pasta for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the egg starts to curdle. As soon as the egg starts to curdle it is ready to serve.

Serve with grated parmiggiano or pecorino. Many people add the cheese to the beaten eggs, but it is more delicate if you add the cheese when the pasta has been plated.

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One Year Ago: Cape Town

Three Years Ago: Flounder and Fennel filled Mezzelune with Salsa di Pistacchi & Mantecato of Flounder and Fennel over Gemelli with Pistachios

Four Years Ago: Chili and Honey Chicken Legs with Braised Collards

Five Years Ago: Pork Loin Stuffed with Figs, Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread & Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta GA


Pork Chops with Cardoncelli Mushrooms

•March 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I have a confession to make, one that I only realized recently. I don’t love mushrooms, I don’t dislike them like I did when I was a kid, but I get why people don’t like them and why it took me so long to try them. I love the flavor that they offer, but the texture isn’t something that I swoon over. This, I realized, is the reason that when I buy mushrooms, I usually put them in pasta or in a risotto, where they are cut up into little bits, give off a lot of flavor, but you don’t get slimy mouthfuls.

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I decided to get over myself and for the sake of variety and jazzing up the blog, I went in a different direction. Pork chops, another thing that I have never loved, again, consistency. They always seem tough. I then ran across this recipe from the New York Times on the correct way to make a pork chop and I went with it and they were indeed delicious, the seared mushrooms and the mustard sauce bringing everything together perfectly.

I will try just about anything and with that I want to enjoy every kind of food. I’d never had a pork chop that had been seared at high heat and then finished off in an oven, making them crispy on the outside, but tender on the inside. It may have been the very first time I had ever cooked a pork chop, again, not a cut of meat I’ve ever really liked. The mushrooms were not little bits, but their consistency was delicious on the fork with a bit of chop and smothered in mustard sauce, the perfect balance.


Pork Chops with Cardoncelli Mushrooms

from The New York Times

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons safflower or grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 bone-in pork chops (1 1/4-inch thick)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound small shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustards, 1/2 cup of oil and sherry vinegar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon remaining oil. Meanwhile, season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes.
When the oil begins to smoke, add the shiitake mushrooms to the pan, brown side down, in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat until the caps are seared all over. Using kitchen tongs, turn mushrooms on their other side and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Transfer mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe skillet of any excess oil with a wad of paper towels and set over medium heat once again.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. When it begins to smoke, add the pork chops in a single layer (you may have to do this in two batches). Cook the pork chops over high heat until the first side is browned, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Flip over the pork chops and place the skillet in the center of the oven. Cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes or until done to taste. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow the pork chops to rest, 5 to 10 minutes.
Arrange the pork chops on a serving platter. Top with mustard vinaigrette and mushrooms. Serve immediately.
YIELD 4 servings


One Year Ago: Risotto with sole, toasted almonds and roasted tomatoes

Three Years Ago: Funghi Trifecta Risotto Croquettes

Tonarelli con Pesce Spada e Radicchio

•March 18, 2014 • 2 Comments


This recipe is all about umami, a delicious word that I discovered a while back and learned that one of my favorite things in life, the anchovy, is the umami of Italian food. My husband and I took a trip about 5 years ago to Sicily, right before we moved to Charleston and my husband had this pasta at a restaurant outside of Agrigento. I have tried to reproduce the flavor and after a failed attempt I realized that it needed the umami of anchovies to kick up the flavor.

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I also added a few winter tomatoes from our piennolo and used an egg pasta instead of the casareccie that we had in Sicily. Amazing that I remember that meal so well, almost every detail, it was that good.


Tonarelli con Pesce Spada e Radicchio

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion or shallot, minced
  • 3 or 4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 3 or 4 winter tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 lb. swordfish steak or fillet, skin and bones removed
  • 1 large head of radicchio, white part removed, purple leaves roughly chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 1/2 lb of tonarelli, these are like a spaghetti, made with egg, any long pasta will work with this, but the richness of the egg pasta was wonderful
  • small handful of salt for pasta water

Fill a large pot with water for the pasta, bring to a boil over high heat.

Heat oil in a deep skillet or a wide saucepan over medium heat and the anchovies and the minced shallot. When the onions start to simmer, add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes start to break down lower the heat to medium-low and add the radicchio, it will immediately start to wilt and change color. Add the pieces of the swordfish, you don’t need to chop them up before adding them to the pan, you can easily break them apart with a wooden spoon.

Once the water starts to boil add a small handful of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Using a tea cup, set aside a cup of water in case the sauce starts to dry out when tossing it with the pasta.

When the pasta is perfectly al dente, turn up the heat on the sauce and drain the pasta. Without shaking all of the water out of the colander pour the pasta into the pan and toss it with the sauce. This allows for the pasta to cook a little longer in the sauce and absorb the flavor.

Remove from the heat and toss in the fresh parsley. Serve immediately.


One Year Ago: Chicken with 28 Cloves of Garlic, Pickled Shrimp & Farfalle With Stewed Fennel, Artichokes and Peas

Two Years Ago: Signs of Spring

Three Years Ago: Agnolotti al Brasato, Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Fennel, Pureed Potato and Broccoli Soup & Funghi Trifecta Risotto

Four Years Ago: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew & Ziti alla Sorrentina

Five Years Ago: Farfalle with Salmon and Fennel, Soba Noodles With Tofu, Shiitake Mushrooms & Broccoli, Pesto, Gemelli with Fennel & Bacon, Salsa di Pistacchi, Tzatziki Potato Salad, Beet and Blood Orange Salad & Red Snapper alla Ligure

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Marjoram

•March 7, 2014 • 2 Comments


I have never loved gnocchi, they are often heavy little pillows and rarely the little clouds that they are meant to be. In Rome Thursday is for gnocchi, I’m assuming that it was to fill you up before having to eat fish on Friday, which is another thing to expect in Rome. I found a few restaurants in Rome who made cloud-like gnocchi, delicious, but I am still not a lover.

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Though after our neighbors were bringing us weekly tubs of fresh ricotta I have found that I love ricotta gnocchi, they have the lightness that I like in a dumpling and are so delicious and simple. My mother, who’s hands are featured in the photographs, helped me make them when she was here over the holidays. We had a lot of fun making them together and were very happy with the fruits of our labors.

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The mushrooms were a nice touch, at this time of year you can find a lot of different types of mushrooms at the market. We choose the Pleurotus mushrooms, which are the easiest to find in the these parts. I also threw in a few dried porcini for extra flavor.


Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Marjoram

from Bon Appétit

Yield: Makes 6 servings

  • 1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
  • 4 green onions; white and pale green parts finely chopped, dark green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
For gnocchi:
Place ricotta in strainer set over medium bowl. Chill until ricotta has texture of wet clay, about 1 hour.Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup flour, egg, and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough is slightly sticky (do not add more than 4 tablespoonfuls). Cover and chill 30 minutes.Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Using hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4-inch-wide log. Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.For sauce:
Heat olive oil in large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add chopped white and pale green parts of green onions. Sauté 1 minute. Add wine; stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Stir until sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.Working in 2 batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking. Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with mushrooms. Add sliced dark green parts of green onions.Rewarm mushrooms with gnocchi and green onions over medium heat, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Remove from heat. Add 1/4 cup cheese, butter, and marjoram; stir until cheese and butter melt. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with additional cheese.

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One Year Ago: Rape Selvatiche

Two Years Ago: Casa di Nonna

Three Years Ago: Shrimp and Grits alla Mediterranea & Spaghetti Squash all’Aglio e Olio

Four Years Ago: Sweet Potatoes Wrapped in Sage and Prosciutto

Five Years Ago: Pizzette, Ravioli con Ragù Napoletano & Ragù Napoletano and Grits

Roasted Fennel with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic and Olive Oil

•February 28, 2014 • 6 Comments

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I never thought to boil fennel before roasting it, amazing what you can learn when you read cookbooks. I always read them, I have a lovely collection of cookbooks in both English and Italian and they are mixed up on the shelves in my kitchen, rarely put in any order, especially the 3 or 4 that I always open for inspiration or essential tips. This Jamie Oliver book is a new one my mother gave me for Christmas, I have to say I love his enthusiasm and his love of food, also how he doesn’t put a whole lot on presentation, but more on ingredients. No fuss. This fennel recipe was delicious, really delicious. The suggested boiling time for the fennel was a few minutes too long, but the effect was great and the flavor incredible, this will be a go to recipe for a delicious veggie side for many future dinners.


Roasted Fennel with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic and Olive Oil

from Happy Days with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver

  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 24 cherry tomatoes (I used our winter tomatoes)
  • 1 large handful of pitted black olives
  • 1 small handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 wineglass of white wine, vermouth or Pernod
  • 2 oats of butter

Remove the top feathery stalks from your fennel and slice them finely. Put them into a roasting pan. Cut your fennel bulbs in quarters, then cut the quarters in half. Put them into boiling, salted water and cook for 10 minutes (I think 5 works better, 10 made them a little mushy, I like a little crunch). While your fennel is cooking , preheat the oven to 425°F and pick all your cherry tomatoes. After 5 or 10 minutes remove the fennel with a slotted spoon and add to the roasting pan. Add your tomatoes to the fennel water for 45 seconds, to loosen the skins. Drain them and run a little cold water over them. Pinch or peel the skins away from the tomatoes, then add the tomatoes to the roasting pan. Add the olives, thyme  and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 glugs of olive oil and mix together. Try to arrange everything neatly so you have one layer. Add your wine and butter, breaking them up over the veg. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30 minutes.


One Year Ago: Risotto alla Zuppa di Pesce

Two Years Ago: Mure delle Pietre Secche

Five Years Ago: Gemelli with Tuna, Raisins, Pine Nuts & Capers & Salsicce e Friarielli


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