Here’s what I learned about Buddy Valastro aka the Cake Boss and star of TLC’s Cake Boss and Kitchen Boss, after meeting him and watching him cook a fantastic meal for the five grand winners of the KitchenAid Make the Cut Sweepstakes by hhgregg at the Senior PGA several summers ago in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The first is that he’s warm and witty, the second he can whip up a multi-course dinner in an amazing short period of time, and the third is he doesn’t measure.
Chopping up a big pile of pancetta (a type of Italian bacon and no, we didn’t learn how much), he adds it to a big pot (“I like to cook family style”) along with finely chopped shallots and minced garlic.
“If you don’t have shallots, you can use onions,” he says. “It ain’t gonna kill you.”
Next come the tomatoes that the Valastros can each fall – some hundred bushels and a large pile of basil – an ingredient he describes as the most important.
“When you cut it,” he says. “It releases all the flavors.”
And next – well, let’s just say it was lucky there wasn’t a heart specialist in the group.
“You’re going to go crazy when you see how much salt I put in this,” he says, scooping up what looks like a huge handful of salt from a bowl and throwing it into his pasta sauce. “But believe me you need it.”
Watching Valastro, we all wonder how much salt he used.
“I don’t measure,” he says after someone asks. “I ain’t going to lie to you.”
Indeed, when Buddy cooks, several of his crew watch him, trying to estimate the amounts he uses to translate them into recipes for his food shows and cookbooks.
“Anytime I cook with tomatoes, I always put in a little sugar,” he says. “Maybe because I’m a baker, maybe because I’m a sweet guy.”
He also likes to keep a piece of bread nearby to dip in the sauce to taste for seasoning.
While he’s talking, he brings us up to speed on Cake Boss, the reality show based upon Carlo’s Bakery, his fourth generation bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. There are now more Carlo’s Bakery locations as well as Carlo’s Bake Shop Vending Machines including one in Las Vegas.
“It’s pretty wild,” he says. “I do a life sized Betty White cake.”
Next, he adds cream to the pasta sauce so the red turns pink.
“Sometimes I do what my dad used to do which is whip the cream before adding it,” says Valastro. “This is old school Italian.”
After throwing in a “smidge” more basil and telling us we can add as much cream as we want, we get to eat the sauce after he ladles it over bowtie shaped pasta. Served with a round of polenta, a caprese salad – freshly made mozzarella layered with tomatoes and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil, Buddy starts on the cannoli – rolled pastry shells stuffed with a thick rich cream made of ricotta cheese, cream, sugar and a touch of cinnamon oil.
“Don’t be cheap with the cannoli cream,” he says, using a pastry bag to extrude a large amount into the rolls. “The trick to making the rolls is lard. But it’s hard. You have to fry them and wind them around a stick. I did a demo of it once at DisneyWorld and I was like stressing. This is one of the recipes in my book that I say good luck. Better to buy some good shells somewhere.”
When Buddy finally is finished cooking a meal that seems like it should have taken days – the elapsed time is about an hour — he has produced a warm tomato basil soup, garlic cheese bread, veal picante, the pasta dish, the caprese salad, polenta as well as cannoli for dessert.
“I want to bring back a time,” he says in closing, “I want to let the basil talk, the garlic talk, I want to cook from the heart. That’s what it’s all about.”
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cut 1/4″ slices across the equator
- 1 pound best quality fresh mozzarella cheese, cut 1/4″ slices
- Fresh whole leaves of basil, approximately 15-20 leaves of assorted sizes
- Best quality flavorful extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- Coarse salt
- Coarse grindings black pepper
On a serving platter, lay down the slices of tomato and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes until tomatoes exude some juices. Lay mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, season with sprinklings of salt and grindings of pepper.
Drizzle olive oil to taste over all. Oil will mingle with the tomato juices to create a flavorful sauce.
Scatter fresh basil leaves decoratively over all.
Pasta with Pink Sauce
- ½ pound pancetta
- 2 – 4 shallots
- 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, chopped
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1 to 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup or more fresh basil
- ¼ to ½ cup grated Romano cheese
- ½ to 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt, pepper and sugar, to taste
- 1 pound farfalle or bowtie pasta
Finely slice up the shallots and garlic. Cut the pancetta into chunks. Sauté the shallots over medium heat.
After a couple of minutes add in the garlic and the pancetta. Cook for a few minutes and then add tomatoes.
Add a dash of sugar, salt, pepper and bring it to a roaring boil for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
Next add the heavy cream. You can cook your pasta at any time but you only want to cook it al dente because it’ll continue to cook in the pan with the sauce.
Cook for another couple of minutes. Then drain the farfalle and dump it right into the pink sauce.
Cook it at high heat for another minute so that it absorbs the sauce.
Finish with fresh basil and some grated Romano cheese.
Years of fame from authoring best selling cookbooks, hosting TV cooking shows, opening restaurants and gourmet food stores, including the many Eataly stores including the one in Chicago that opened eight years ago, and creating her own line of pastas, sauces and readymade foods hasn’t even slightly dimmed Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s enthusiasm for spreading the word about the glories of Italian cuisine. Indeed, if she had her way, we’d all be experts in Italian cooking.
“Italian food is very simple,” Bastianich tells me as we chat about her cookbooks including one of my favorites, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master (Knopf $35), which she co-authored with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali. “It’s all about good ingredients and not fretting about the recipes.”
Passing on the traditions learned from helping her mother and grandmother cook, Bastianich revels in the email and comments she gets from fans crediting her with teaching them how to cook Italian.
“People think I don’t know how to make an artichoke or risotto or pasta,” she says, “and when they learn, they are so excited. At one of my book signings, a woman told me that when her kids get home from school and they ask what’s for dinner, if she says I’m cooking Lidia, they’re happy.”
In her book, Bastianich expounds on using our judgment when it comes to cooking.
“We all have commonsense in life, in the kitchen we all have it too, this book brings it out,” she says. “It’s straightforward. Recipes are not law. It’s okay to change a recipe according to what we have in the house. I want people to be comfortable with food.”
Intense food memories of her grandmother’s Italian kitchen mix with those of coming to America at age 11 at a time when the Italian ingredients we take for granted now—fresh ricotta, pasta and mozzarella, a wide selection of Italian charcuterie, the Arborio rice necessary for making risotto and high end canned tomatoes—were difficult if not impossible to find. Bastianich describes herself as feeling “yanked from a cocoon.” And indeed life was much different. From milking goats and helping harvest the seasonal garden bounty, she instead wanted to be American which meant eating like an American.
“I was intrigued by Jell-O and TV dinners because that’s what being Americans was— heat up a TV dinner and sit in front of the TV to eat,” she recalls. “Sometimes my mom would give me a fried zucchini sandwich for school. I was so embarrassed. In high school and college you did what your peers do. My mother was very upset.”
Fortunately, not only for her mother but for American home cooks, Bastianich, realizing she had a heritage that was rich, reconnected to her roots and became an advocate for real food versus what she calls American “utility” food.
“My father never would have eaten a TV dinner,” she says. “Food has given me so much. If I can share that it’s a great gift.”
Sidebar: Mega Italian
Partnering with her son Joe as well as several others, Bastianich opened the 50,000-square-foot Eataly in Manhattan over a decade ago, the group then brought the concept of all thing’s Italian cuisine-wise to other cities including Chicago. The two-story 60,000-square-foot store features a plethora of restaurants, cooking classes a gelateria for gelato lovers and enough retail food vendors to send even the most blasé foodie into overdrive. On October 22 & 23, Eataly is presenting their Tuscan Wine & Cheese event, a focus on artisanal cheeses, regional wines, and seasonal bites on October 22 & 23, Eataly Restaurant Fest until October 31, and How to Eataly offering tips for living and eating better as well as getting the most out of fall until November 1. As for other events, there are cooking classes, market tours, and more all the time.
Eataly is located at 43 E. Ohio St., Chicago, IL; 212-229-2560 http://www.eataly.com/eataly-chicago
The following recipes are from Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking.
Chicken Breast with Orange and Gaeta Olives
Pollo con Olive ed Aranci
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- all-purpose flour for dredging
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 1 cup pitted Gaeta or Kalamata olives, halved
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and lightly dredge it in flour. Lightly brown the chicken in the skillet (you want the chicken to end up with a blonde-colored crust and slowly build the color, and flavor, up) on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook the chicken in batches, if necessary, depending on the size of your skillet. Remove to a plate as it is colored.
Once the chicken is colored, add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the olives, orange juice and zest, white wine and fennel powder. Add chicken back to the skillet and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce coats the chicken, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with remaining salt, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.
Lidia’s Pear Bread Pudding
- 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream, plus more to whip for garnish
- 4 cups day- old 1/2-inch country- bread cubes, crusts removed
- 2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1/3 cup blanched sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the baking dish with softened butter. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the vanilla, and lemon zest, and whisk to lighten the mixture. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Add the bread and pears, and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the almond slices.
Bake until the pudding is set and puffy and the top is golden, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with whipped cream.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 2.2 pounds golden delicious apples
- 2 eggs
- 3.5 ounces flour
- 3.5 ounces sugar
- 3.5 ounces Amaretti
- 3.5 ounces butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 pack yeast for baking
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an -8– or -9–inch springform pan.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and white sugar until pale and light, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, another minute or two. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the mixer with the lemon zest, and mix until just combined. In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, and walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and then sprinkle with the apple mixture.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then unmold, and cut into wedges to serve.
Lidia’s newest cookbook, A Pot, A Pan, and A Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals was just released, here’s a recipe from the book. Find more recipes on her Facebook page.
Follow Lidia at @lidiabastianich
Pinsa Romana with Katie Parla.
Katie Parla, a Rome-based food and beverage educator, journalist, and award-winning cookbook author, takes us on to a deep dive into Pinsa dough (one of several Roman styles of flatbreads) and pizza making. Originally from New Jersey, katie not only has an art history degree from Yale but also a master’s degree in Italian Gastronomic Culture from the Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, a sommelier certificate from the Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori Ristoratori, and an archeological speleology certification from the city of Rome.
“Eating & Drinking in Rome” (available for Kindle, Nook, and in PDF format), National Geographic’s Walking Rome, Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City, Flour Lab: An At-Home Guide to Baking with Freshly Milled Grains, American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Homemade Pasta, and Food of the Italian South: Recipes for Classic, Disappearing, and Lost Dishes
In her interactive cooking demonstration, Katie provides amazing tips and lots of history behind her pinsa dough recipe.
Katie Parla also co-hosts the Gola Podcast about Italian food culture. Her forthcoming cookbook, Food of the Italian Islands, will focus on Sicily and Sardinia and other lesser known Italian islands. She is currently working on an untitled pizza cookbook with Dan Richer of Razza in Jersey City, NJ who will be making a special appearance next Friday with Katie and Scott Wiener, a pizza expert, who runs the famous NY based Scott’s Pizza Tours. She also explores pizza making in Italay as the following You Tube video shows.
Katie focused on the Pinsa Romana from her book, Food of the Italian South (2019 Clarkson Potter) for this event, baking in the Breville Smart Oven Pizzaiolo. Katie is also the author of Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City
About the Cooking Demonstration
Breville presents exclusive virtual pizza demonstrations + live Q&A with local legend pizza makers and pizza-related renowned cookbook authors from around the world. Join us live or watch later if you can’t make it. Each stop will be guided by Scott Wiener, a pizza expert, who runs the famous NY based Scott’s Pizza Tours and is the founder of Slice Out Hunger.
Every Friday, tune in to meet pizza pros and get an in-depth view into their story and craft. From the New York Slice, Chicago Deep Dish, to the Margherita and so much more, you will learn the tips behind making each of these pies from the comfort of your own home.
After more than a decade of living in California, Shauna Sever resettled with her family in her home state of Illinois and rediscovered the storied, simple pleasures of home baking in her Midwestern kitchen, developing what she calls the 5 tenets of Midwest baking: Bake Big, Bake Easy, Bake with Purpose, Bake from the Past, and Bake in the Present. You may have seen Shauna discussing these tenets and sharing some of her favorite Midwest foods recently on CBS This Morning: Saturday.
As she’ll tell you: “From the Dakotas to Ohio, from Minnesota to Missouri, the Midwest is a veritable quilt of twelve states full of history, values, recipes, people, and places that make up the baking culture of the Heartland.” And with MIDWEST MADE, Sever offers bold recipes for treats we’ve come to know as all-American—from Bundt cakes to brownies—most traced to German, Scandinavian, Irish, Polish, French, Arab, and Italian immigrant families that came to call the American Midwest their home. Recipes include Swedish Flop, Polish Paczki, Danish Kringle, German Lebkuchen, Candy Bar Baklava, Ozark Skillet Cake, Cleveland-Style Cassata Cake, Nebraskan Runzas, Apricot and Orange Blossom Kolacky, Dark-Chocolate Pecan Mandelbrot, Marshmallow Haystacks and so much more…
Here’s one that you’ll be sure to love.
Honeyed Raspberry and White Chocolate Cream Pie
Serves 8 to 10
From the outset, this pie appears to be one of those floaty, feminine food things, because it’s just so dang pretty. However! The fluff factor here—a cloud of white chocolate cream, bolstered by cream cheese—is quickly tempered by the thick raspberry layer beneath it, sharp and nubbly with all those nutty little berry seeds, which I happen to love. The mix of cooked and raw berries help to intensify the raspberry flavor, making you wonder: why there aren’t more raspberry pies out there, anyway?
2 ounces/57 g high-quality white chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 single batch My Favorite Pie Crust (see recipe at bottom), blind baked and cooled
2/3 cup/132 g granulated sugar
1/4 cup/32 g cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup/225 g lukewarm water
3 tablespoons/63 g honey
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups/500 g fresh raspberries, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup/240 g heavy whipping cream, very cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
4 ounces/113 g full-fat cream cheese
4 ounces/113 g high-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
Prepare the crust: Combine the white chocolate and cream in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave with 20-second bursts on medium, stirring until smooth. Spread evenly over the bottom of the cooled crust. Allow to set at room temperature.
In a 3- to 4-quart/2.8 to 3.75 L saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until lumpfree.
Whisk in the lukewarm water, honey, and lemon juice. Add 2 cups/250 g of the raspberries. Cover and set the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the berries begin to break down and the mixture is slowly bubbling all over the surface like lava, cook for 2 timed minutes, stirring often. Stir in the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
Prepare the topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream with the vanilla and almond extract until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a clean bowl. Swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle. Add the cream cheese and melted white chocolate to the mixer bowl (no need to clean it). Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gently stir about a third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Assemble the pie: Scatter 1 cup of the remaining berries over the bottom of the crust. Spoon the raspberry filling over them, then add the remaining berries on top. Pipe or dollop the white chocolate cream topping over the pie, leaving a 1-inch/2.5 cm border of the ruby red filling all around the edges. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set. Let soften at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.
My Favorite Pie Crust
Pie crust purists will likely object, but I’m a big believer in using a food processor for pie crust making. If you don’t overdo it, it just doesn’t get any easier or faster.
We’ve all heard a thousand times that keeping the fat as cold as possible is the key to great pie crusts, and that’s certainly a great tip. But I add a few pinches and splashes that I consider insurance, for when the kitchen is hot or I’m distracted by any number of children or things.
Vinegar is great for tenderness: I like red wine vinegar, but cider vinegar is good, too. A little pinch of baking powder makes a flakier crust a little more foolproof in case you happen to overwork the dough (happens to the best of us). For a crust with a savory filling, I include the smaller amounts of sugar as listed here for flavor and browning. For sweet pies, use 1 or 2 tablespoons, as you like.
MAKES: 1 (9- or 10-inch/23 or 25 cm) round bottom pie or tart crust
11/3 cups/170 g unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (see headnote)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup/113 g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup/57 g ice water
11/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
SPECIAL NOTES > Pat the finished dough into a round disk before wrapping and chilling to make rolling it into a circle later much easier.
MAKES: 1 (9- or 10-inch/23 or 25 cm) round double-crusted or lattice-topped pie
22/3 cups/340 g unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (see headnote)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup/225 g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup/113 g ice water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
SPECIAL NOTES > Divide the dough in half before shaping and wrapping. For a lattice top, make one disk slightly larger for the bottom crust.
MAKES: 1 (10 x 15-inch/30 x 43 cm) slab pie
51/3 cups/680 g unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
4 teaspoons to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (see headnote)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups/453 g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup/225 g ice water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
SPECIAL NOTES: Make the dough in 2 batches (2 recipes of the doubled recipe, left), for the top and bottom crusts. Shape and wrap each batch separately.
METHOD: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle half of the butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Process until the mixture resembles cornmeal, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining cold butter and pulse about 10 times, until this batch of butter cubes is broken down by about half.
In a measuring cup, combine the water and vinegar. Add about three quarters of the liquid to the bowl. Pulse about 10 times, or until the dough begins to form a few small clumps. Test the dough by squeezing a small amount in the palm of your hand. If it easily holds together and your palm isn’t dusty with floury bits, it’s done. If not, add an additional 1/2 tablespoon of vinegared water and pulse 2 or 3 more times. Repeat this process as needed just until the dough holds together. Turn out the mixture onto a work surface. With a few quick kneads, gather the dough into a mass.
For a single crust, pat the dough into a disk, wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. For double crust, divide the dough in half and shape into disks. For 2 slab crusts, shape each half of the dough into a 5 x 8-inch/12.5 x 20 cm rectangle. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling.
TIP > The dough will keep tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to a week, and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Reprinted with permission from MIDWEST MADE © 2019 by Shauna Sever, Running Press.
The largest marketplace of all things doing with Italian edibles in the U.S., the 63,000-square-foot Eataly in Chicago is a mecca for food lovers, a vast space crowded with a variety of venues including unique specialty restaurants, stalls selling meat, cheese, breads, sweets and fish (though really stall is too plebian a term—these are sparkling and enticing places where you can get lost for seemingly hours looking at all the delectable offerings), rows of olive oils and wines and even a Nutella Bar (be still my beating heart). One of more than 40 worldwide concepts, Eataly Chicago, owned by Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, not only offers a plethora of ingredients, classes and events but also an expanse of cookbooks including the second in their Eataly series, All About Pasta: A Complete Guide with Recipes (Rizzoli 2018; $25).
With the guiding philosophy of “the more you know, the more you enjoy,” this book immerses readers into a world of pasta from the easily recognizable—spaghetti and linguine—to the rarely found and more esoteric—maltagliati (translation: badly cut), mallopredus (pasta dough with saffron) and tajarin—thin egg pasta strands also known as taglierini. Of course, you’re never going to learn all the different types of pasta because even the experts don’t know since no one has successfully completed a survey of all the pasta shapes in the world. There are simply too many different shapes and multiple names for each.
But there are ways of differentiating one from another and how to use them in creating delicious meals which the book shares. Take long and short pastas. As a basic rule, long dried semolina pasta pairs with oil-based sauces, smooth tomato sauces and seafood. Tube-shaped semolina pasta, known as la pasta tubolare, with its hollow centers, is perfect for capturing the ingredients used in the sauce.
Le pastine or small pasta is most often cooked in either broth or chunky soups. Other pasta types include le perle del Mediterraneo–semolina pastas made by rubbing hard wheat flour with water until small balls form, cereali antichi is made with heirloom or ancient grains, while croxetti ot corzetti is the name for two different types of pasta that are pressed or stamped rather than rolled out.
We told you was complicated and it gets even more so as the book explores the different types of flours used for making pasta, the different sauces and il tocco finale—the finishing touch which can be such flavorful ingredients as cheese, basil, spicy chili oil or just a handful of minced flat leaf parsley to add a bright herbaceous flavored to almost any dish.
The wonders of this book, with its immense amount of information as well as recipes, is that you can go deep or you can just choose the information you want. Either way, you’ll end up knowing a lot more about pasta—”a world fashioned out of flour and water.”
The following recipes are courtesy of Eataly.
Vesuvio al Ragu di Salsiccia e Scarola
Vesuvio Pasta with Sausage Ragu and Escarole
12 ounces sweet sausage
1 tablespoon red wine
One cup tomato puree
½ cup chicken or beef stock
3 cup shredded escarole
Find sea salt to taste
Coarse sea salt for pasta cooking water
1 pound Vesuvius pasta or other short pasta preferably with a complex shape
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Grated Romano, pecorino or parmesan cheese for serving
Remove the cost sausage casings and crumble the meat into a bowl. Sprinkle the wine over the meat and massage the wine into the meat by hand until it is soft and elastic, about two minutes about two minutes.
Place the meat in the cold skillet with high sides. Placed the skillet over low heat and slowly cook the meat until it’s no longer raw looking., about two minutes. Do not brown the meat.
At the tomato puree and stir to combine. Increase the heat until the tomato puree is simmering gently.
Pour in the stock, stir once, and decrease the heat until the ragu is at a very gentle simmer, with a bubble just occasionally breaking the surface. Simmer uncovered without stirring for two hours. The meat should poach in the liquid and turn very soft.
When the sauce is cooked, carefully spoon off and discard any liquid remaining on the top. Stir in the escarole and cook until just wilted, about two minutes. Season to taste with sea salt. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. When the water is boiling salted add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Smear a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of the warm pasta serving bowl. Then transfer it immediately to the serving bowl. Top with remaining sauce and toss vigorously to combine. Drizzle on the olive oil and toss again. Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side.
Spaghettoni al Tonno (Pasta with Tuna)
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound spaghettoni (or bucatini)
1 (7-ounce) jar Italian tuna preserved in olive oil, drained
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed & drained
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 yellow onion, minced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 Calabrese chili pepper in olive oil, drained & minced
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chili pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion and the garlic are golden. Flake the tuna into the pan, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the capers and the lemon zest, and remove from the heat.
Toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining olive oil, and toast in a toaster oven or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crisp.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the sea salt and spaghettoni. Cook, stirring frequently with a long-handled fork, until the spaghettoni is al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
Transfer the pasta to the pan with the tuna. Toss vigorously over medium heat until combined, about 2 minutes. If the pasta looks dry, add a small amount of the cooking water, and toss until it looks moist.
Garnish with the toasted breadcrumbs, and serve immediately. For another taste of Calabria, repeat tomorrow.