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October 2008

October 29, 2008

Tomato Sauce Recipe


My father called it Gravy.

I've always called it tomato sauce, and have fond memories of it simmering away every Sunday afternoon. The tomato sauce from my youth was always made with meat. Not that it was a "meat sauce," per se, but meat was first browned in the pot and then left to finish cooking in the pot. I like to use meatballs and sweet Italian sausage, but my mom will also throw in short ribs (beef or pork) and braciole on occasion. 

And so as the weather cools here in the northeast and my grill gets less and less use, you'll often find a pot of sauce bubbling on my stove on a sunday early evening. Feel free to call it Gravy if you like.

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October 27, 2008

Pasta Fagioli (with escarole)

October 014

This is a very quick, VERY easy, and delicious soup to make.   It is hearty and great for cooler weather.  I recommend a crusty bread for dipping.   There are 3 variations that you can make from this recipe: (1) You can make this without the escarole for regular Pasta Fagioli. (2) There is traditional "Escarole and Bean" - which is similar....just leave out the pasta.    And (3), is a traditional Portuguese Kale Soup, by leaving out pasta, using Kale instead of escarole, and adding cooked chirizo and potatoes.

Serves 4
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 lb of small pasta (such as ditalini)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 head of escarole, rinsed and chopped coarsely
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 can small white beans, drained (navy beans or other)
1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese
salt + black pepper to taste

Cook pasta, drain and set aside.  In saute pan, crush the garlic cloves, and cook in olive oil approx 2 minutes.   Add escarole, cover and let cook for 5 minutes.   Remove from heat.   In large pan, bring stock to a simmer.   Add the beans.   Now, remove half the beans to a blender, and blend with small amount of stock, and then return to soup.   An alternative is to add half the beans, and then use an immersion blender (these are great gadgets - go to Amazon from this site).  Add all remaining ingredients, except cooked pasta.   When ready to serve, then laddle soup into bowl, and add pasta separately.   This prevents the pasta from absorbing all the stock.  Top with more grated cheese, and drizzle with olive oil (optional).


October 26, 2008

Meatballs Recipe

It took me a long time to get my meatballs to come out tasting anywhere close to those my mom made when we were kids - and still does today. It's not that she held back on the recipe, but perhaps I was just trying to find my own way.

I use a mix of pork, veal, and beef while my mom uses all beef. And I've added fresh herbs and replaced the seasoned bread crumbs with plain. I have, however, stuck with the store-brought bread crumbs. I refuse to head down that "old-world" path of soaking Italian bread in milk and then squishing it into the meat mixture. My mother's recipe for meatballs, and HER mother's recipe for meatballs used store brought breadcrumbs. It was good enough for them, and it's good enough for me.

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October 19, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe

Buffalo chicken wings

Buffalo Chicken Wings seem to go hand in hand with autumn. Maybe it has something to do with football, or maybe buffalo wings just make for a nice transition from outdoor grilling to indoor cooking. Whatever the reason, the recipe is fairly simple, though I depart from the original by baking my wings instead of frying, and adding a couple ingredients to the sauce.

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October 12, 2008

Banana Bread Recipe

Banana bread

I became enamored with making banana bread when I heard that the best fruit to use are the black-skinned, overripe, bananas that usually end up in the trash. There's something wholly satisfying about turning what would have otherwise been disposed of into something the kids fight over getting the first warm slice, fresh from the oven.

Of course, I could do without the children fighting - but you get my piont.

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October 08, 2008

Tomato Sauce - Vegetarian


4 cans crushed tomatoes (plain crushed tomatoes)

2 small cans tomato paste

Handful each of fresh basil, oregano, parsley (optional) – CHOPPED FINE.

Few shakes of Hot Red Pepper

2 tsp salt, to taste

8 cloves of garlic – ½ chopped thinly, ½ pressed

1 Cup Red Wine

1/2 Cup Grated Romano Cheese (or a nice whole chunk of Parma Cheese to float in sauce while it is cooking)

2 Cups Water (less if you like sauce thicker)

1 Onion

Heat olive oil (approx 4 tbsp) in large stock pot over medium heat.   Chop onion fine, add to pot and cook until it starts to lightly brown.  Add garlic, and simmer 3 minutes longer.   Add all remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil.   Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer...anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on how much time you have.    Stir sauce every 15 to 20 minutes and scrape bottom of pan.  Enjoy!


Serve with fresh Romano grated cheese over pasta, chicken cutlets, etc.  Also great on homemade pizza and polenta.  Freeze any remaining sauce.


Pizza2_2 Pizza1_2

Growing up Italian, I have made homemade pizza my whole life - every Sunday all my relatives would come to our house for dinner and family craziness. This year, for father's day, my wife got me a cast-iron pizza pan....and that has made all the difference.   Forget the pizza stone - the simplicity and amazing crust that you get with this pan is well worth it.  To make many pizzas at once, I will start one pizza on the cast-iron pan, and start another pizza, about 10 minutes later, on a regular metal pizza pan. Once the first pizza (the one on the cast-iron pan) is done, I then transfer the pizza that is part-cooked from the metal pan, using 2 spatulas, to the already hot cast-iron pan, and let it finish.  This way I can bang out 4 pizza pies, and only use 1 cast-iron pan.

To make 4 crusts, use 4 cups flour (King Aurther is best) - you can mix whole wheat if you prefer.  For 3 crusts, use 3 cups flour

1 envelope package dry yeast

1 tsp honey

1 and 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 to 2 cups water

Homemade sauce

Mozz Cheese and any other topping you like

For the pizza dough: 

Put dry yeast in small bowl, and add honey.  The add approx 1 cup warm water.  Stir together until mostly dissolved - this will be a cloudy mixture.   Let this rest approx 5 minutes.   Mix in a large bowl the flour, salt, olive oil.  Add yeast mixture to the flour mixture.  If you have an electric stand mixer, use your dough hook.   If not, mix by hand with wooden spoon, or with your hands.  Slowly add aprox 1.5 cups warm water, until it forms into a dough, with no loose flour left in the bowl.   Kneed on a flour-dusted surface for approx 1 minute, until the dough becomes smooth.  Brush a small amount of olive oil on the dough (to prevent sticking, put it covered (saran wrap) bowl, and let it rise for 3 hours.   After 3 hours, "punch the dough down", and then put it on a floured surface.  Divide in 4 pieces (if using 4 cups flour), and then make each piece into a round ball, and put on greased cookie sheet.  Cover with Wax paper, and let rest for 1 hour.   You are now ready to spread the dough on the pizza pan, or you can refridgerate or freeze the dough for later use.


Preheat oven to 475.   Spread dough on cast iron pizza pan.   Cover with Sauce, Mozz cheese, and any toppings you like.  I typicaly make one plain, one pepperoni, one with roasted red peppers, and one "white"...which means no red sauce, just olive oil, mozz cheese, garlic, oregano, basil.  Put pizza in oven, for approx 15 min, on bottom rack.   Check the pizza every 5 minutes or so, and once the bottom crust is dark brown, it is done.   If you want the top of the pizza darker, then move pan to top rack in oven.   Enjoy!

Here are some updated pictures of this fantastic Homemade Pizza

Broccoli Rabe Recipe

Broccoli rabe

Broccoli Rabe reminds me of winter and of my father. My mother, an excellent cook, rarely made it for him so I'd often prepare a batch when they'd come over for dinner. This is the way he liked it, with lots of garlic and red pepper.

(I'm not really sure why it reminds me of winter).

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October 05, 2008

Rosemary Garlic Chicken Recipe

Rosemary garlic chicken

As I'm sure most parents will agree the weekends seem to fill up so quickly with chores and child-focused activities (multiple soccer games, birthday parties, etc.) that sometimes there's simply not enough time for yourself. For me that means not having time to cook what I was hoping to, and on those occasions I need a good, quick, standby that doesn't require too much prep time. 

This rosemary garlic chicken recipe is so easy, the hardest part is preheating your oven. The kids love it and you end up with some nice roasted garlic cloves when it's all done.

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