Spaghetti and Meatballs (American style vs Italian style)

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     One of our most popular dishes that we served in the restaurant was “Spaghetti and Meatballs”.  A big dish of spaghetti with 2 large meatballs doused with our delicious tomato sauce was a big seller.  Twice a week the chefs would be busy mixing the ground meat in a huge mixer and then rolling 500 meatballs at a time. People loved this dish! Spaghetti and meatballs is a standard Italian dish served at Italian restaurants all over the US.  Notice I said the US.  It is not a typical dish served in Italy. If you go to Italy, you won’t find this dish on restaurant menus and if you do it’s probably in a tourist spot to make the American tourist happy. Italy does have a version of meatballs called polpettes.  But they a very different.  They are usually eaten as a meal itself or in soups.  They are made with different meat from turkey to fish. And they are as small as marbles or as large as a golf ball.  Nothing like the baseball or softball sized American meatballs.

       Polpettes are usually found more at the family table than on a restaurant menu. My grandmother made delicious meatballs that I looked forward to on Sunday dinner with the family. Pellegrino Artusi was a Florentine silk merchant who in his retirement travelled Italy and recorded recipes. He became famous when he published the first regional cookbook, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well for the home chef in 1891. When he talked about polpettes he said “Non crediate che io abbia la pretensione d’insegnarvi a far le polpette. Questo è un piatto che tutti lo sanno fare cominciando dal ciuco,” which translates, “Don’t think I’m pretentious enough to teach you how to make meatballs. This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” So needless to say, Italian version of meatballs was an incredibly easy dish to make.

       So, you may ask how did those large meatballs doused with tomato sauce over spaghetti evolve from polpettes.  It’s the common story shared by all immigrants traveling to America.  They have to make do with ingredients they can find and afford.

      Four million Italians (mostly from southern Italy) immigrated to America from 1880 to 1920. Because the majority of Italians that came were from Southern Italy their cuisine made a huge mark on the Italian/American culture.  When these poor immigrants came to the US they found that their income increased so that they were able to spend more money on food.  They ended up going from eating meat once a week to eating meat every day! And meat was consumed in much larger quantities.  So, the small moist polpettes made with 50% bread and 50% meat that they enjoyed in Italy changed to larger denser meatballs made with mostly beef.

          I have to tell you as popular as the restaurant meatball was, I preferred my Nonna’s meatballs.  There was a huge difference! Nonna’s meatballs were soft and succulent while the restaurant meatballs were large and dense.   I think it’s because Nonna made polpettes not the Italian/American meatball.  Here are a few secrets to get a truly soft succulent meatball.

  1. Use 50% meat and 50% bread.

  2. Use day old bread soaked in either water or milk.

  3. Overcooking meat for too long gets dry and tough but the bread keeps it moist.

  4. Do not over mix the meatball mixture. Overmixing make a denser meatball

      Now that I have shared the secret to making a perfect meatball the rest is easy.  And this is why Pellegrino Artusi said, “everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” Not only am I going to share my Nonna’s meatball recipe but I will also include a gluten free version, a vegan, and a vegetarian recipe. My Nonna’s recipe includes raisins and pignoli ( very popular additions in Neapolitan cooking). You can omit them if not something that your family may like. The gluten free recipe I developed for my daughter who is on a gluten free diet.  They are also very good but not as light and airy as Nonna’s.  The Gluten free meatballs are dense like the Italian/American version.  Also, some recipes may ask for bread crumbs instead of the soaked bread.  These meatballs will be denser. I also included a vegetarian meatball made with zucchini and a vegan meatball made with eggplant.  In Italy polpette are made with a variety of ingredients.  Enjoy tryin the different versions!


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 Nonna’s Neapolitan Meatballs 

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices bread (2 packed cups’ worth)

2 pounds ground beef or you can use a mix of pork, veal. and beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano

1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

15 turns white pepper

4 large eggs

1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

PREPARATION:

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces,

2. Combine the bread with all the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order they are listed. Add the dried bread crumbs last to adjust for wetness: the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.

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3. Using a small scoop, scoop and level dropping the meatball evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they’re cooked through. (At this point, you can cool the meatballs and hold them in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for the future.

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4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

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5. Place the meatballs into the pan of sauce and nudge the heat up ever so slightly. Simmer the meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn’t one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it’s time to eat.

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 Gluten-Free Meatballs 

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds of meatloaf mix (veal, pork, and beef chopped meat)

3 eggs

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup of grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese

1 clove of garlic grated on the microplane or minced

½ cup of almond meal

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

Procedure:

  1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients. Don’t over mix.
  2. Using a small scoop. Scoop and level and place on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs. Small scoop makes about 40 meatballs.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

 

Vegetarian: Ricotta & Zucchini Balls  

Ingredients:

100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil

4 zucchini

1/2 cup ricotta drained

2 eggs

bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

salt

black pepper

½ cup basil chopped

Preparation:

  1. Wash zucchini and then grate with a grater with large holes then drain or squeeze all the water from zucchini with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl put zucchini, ricotta, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, basil and beaten eggs then mix.
  3. In the end add breadcrumbs until the mixture is thick enough to form balls.
  4. Scoop the zucchini mixture and either fry in plenty of extra virgin olive oil hot or bake in a 375-degree oven for 16 minutes on an oiled baking sheet.

 

Vegan Eggplant Balls 

 Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, diced

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 shallot, minced

¼ + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-1 ½ tablespoon(s) extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired), divided

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

 

Procedure:

1.Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.On a large cookie sheet, combine eggplant, garlic, shallot, a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until edges are browned. Once eggplant is removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350°F.

3.In a large food processor (10-cup) combine roasted eggplant mixture with ½ cup of breadcrumbs, and the rest of the spices. Pulse until ingredients are just combined.

4.Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the other ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Continue to pulse until mixed. Avoid over-processing, when possible. When complete, the mixture should easily adhere into balls. (Note: Over-processing the eggplant mixture and breadcrumbs can make the mixture extra sticky and you may have difficulty forming balls.)

5.Form the eggplant and breadcrumb mixture into 1- or 2-inch balls, based on personal preference. Per eggplant, you should yield about 12-16 balls, depending on the size of the eggplant and balls.

6.Place balls on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.

Chiacchiere al Forno – a Carnevale Neapolitan Cookie

chiacchierri  I had a seminar this past weekend and I made an Italian cookie that is usually made to celebrate Carnevale (Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday).  The cookies are usually fried or baked and served with a cup of chocolate sauce to dip into.  For convenience of serving this as part of the cooking seminar I dipped the cookies in semi-sweet chocolate.  I didn’t realize these cookies were going to be such a hit and did not give out the recipe at the seminar.  So many people asked for the recipe so here it is!! I think what makes these cookies so tasty and unusual is the lemon zest and the marsala wine.  Typical of Neapolitan baking.  In the next couple of weeks I promise I will share with you on my blog the last 3 seminars with recipes and lots of information!  Talk to you all soon.  Vivi con gusto!

 

Chiaccheri al Forno

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of flour

½ cup of superfine sugar ( if you don’t have superfine sugar you can pulse the sugar in a food processor but don’t overdo or it will turn to powdered sugar)

2 ounces of softened butter ( half a stick of butter)

4 eggs

4 tablespoons of Marsala Wine

Zest of  2 whole lemons ( make sure when you grate it that you don’t get the white part – it’s the bitter part)

1 tbs of vanilla

¼ tsp of baking soda

1/4 tsp of salt

Melted semi sweet dark chocolate for dipping – I add a little shortening to thin it out

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the ingredients except for chocolate in a mixer and mix until all combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Put dough on a flour surface and knead and keep adding flour until it’s a smooth non-sticky consistence.
  4. Roll out dough until it’s an 1/8 of an inch.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter into rectangles. Then indent the middle of the rectangle in one or two cuts.
  6. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure you space the chiarccheri so they don’t over lap.
  7. Bake in oven until they have a golden color – about 10 minutes
  8. Dip the edges in melted chocolate

Fresh Italian Herbs Recipes

basil       Italian cooking is a very simple cuisine. What sets it apart from other cuisines is not by technique but by knowledge of the ingredients.  Italians know that it’s the authenticity of the ingredients that makes their dishes absolutely delicious!  There are not a lot of ingredients in a typical Italian dish but each of the ingredients are of the highest quality and freshness.

We bring this very essence into the making of our 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce. What sets it apart from other marinara sauces on the market is that fact that we make sure that the ingredients of the highest quality.  And one thing that we bring to marinara sauce is fresh herbs.  So I thought in this post I would like to really delve into fresh and dry herbs and Italian cooking.

Herbs are vital to Italian cooking.  Having an herb garden is essential to every Italian cook. Basil goes hand in hand with tomatoes.  They belong together.  But I have to emphasize to use fresh basil.  Dry basil has no flavor.  Parsley is also another herb that has no flavor if it’s dry. And there is no excuse to not use fresh basil and fresh parsley in your cooking.  They are both readily available in your local supermarket.  As far as parsley there are 2 kinds that are available.  There is Italian parsley and the curly parsley.  The curly parsley has a bland parsley flavor and is used mostly for décor rather than flavor.  Italian parsley or the flat leaf parsley is much bolder in flavor and used for cooking. So if a recipe calls for parsley be sure to get Italian flat leafed parsley.

Storage of your fresh herbs vary if they are soft with tender stems or hard with woody stems.  Soft herbs are treated like flowers.  You cut off the stems and place in a glass of fresh water.  They can be stored in the fridge this way covered with a plastic bag.  Basil is very sensitive and never store in the ridge but rather on your countertop.  If it has a woody stem, those herbs should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and wrapped loosely in plastic wrap in the fridge.

      Don’t get me wrong, Italians do use dry herbs but never, NEVER  basil or parsley! If a label just lists basil or parsley without the word fresh then its a dry tasteless herb!

     I am going to share with you three recipes that are herb intensive.  I am going to share a Grilled Shrimp Pesto with 825 MAIN Marinara to dip into on the side,  Ciabatta bread with an Italian Salsa Verde, and a Fennel Marinara Sauce using the 825 MAIN Marinara.

Grilled Pesto Shrimp

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Ingredients:

  • Shrimp (size at your discretion), peeled (tails left on) and deveined
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup basil leaves (There are numerous varieties of this spicy, aromatic herb, but sweet basil and bush basil are the most common. It is used mostly in dishes that contain tomatoes, and in salads, soups and on pizzas. Freshly chopped basil should be used whenever possible, as dried basil makes a poor substitute)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (These devilishly hot flakes are used in traditional dishes like spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino and are found on almost every Italian table alongside the salt and pepper.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup pignoli or walnuts
  • 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce for dipping

Procedures:

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine the olive oil, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, Parmigiano-Reggiano and pignoli/walnuts. Process until the mixture is well blended. Reserve two tablespoons of the pesto in a bowl large enough to hold all of the shrimp and set aside. Pour the remaining pesto over the shrimp and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to marinate.DSC_0941
  2. If a grill is available all the better. If not just use a cast iron pan and cook shrimp until firm to the touch but do not overcook or they will be rubbery!DSC_0945

Italian Salsa Verde

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Ingredients:

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon (or more) fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon (or more) black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel

3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (packed) chopped Italian parsley ( Italian parsley is the flat-leaved variety as opposed to the curly “moss” variety common in Britain and the United States. Flat-leaved parsley can usually be found at continental stores, where it is often called “continental parsley”. Its flavor is far more pungent than curly parsley, and for this reason it is generally used as a flavoring in Italian dishes rather than as a simple garnish. For Italian recipes where parsley is specified, try to obtain the flat-leaved variety; other parsley can be used as a substitute, but the flavor of the finished dish will not be quite the same. Dried parsley is tasteless.)

1 tablespoon drained capers (The small, green herb buds lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, dressings, sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes. Capers are particularly common in Sicilian cooking, although from puttanesca sauce to the Milanese sauce with anchovies, the little berries can be found the length of the boot.)

2 anchovy fillets, minced

Procedures:

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl.

Using back of wooden spoon, mash to paste. Whisk in lemon juice, then olive oil in thin stream until blended. Stir in parsley, capers, and anchovies. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. DO AHEAD Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk before using.

Roasted Fennel 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

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Ingredients:

2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced ( Fennel (finocchio) Fennel is used in three ways in Italian cooking. The bulb, known as Florence fennel or finocchio, is used whole, sliced or quartered as a vegetable, and either braised or baked au gratin. It is also chopped raw in salads. Wild fennel stems (finocchiella) and the frondy leaves, which have the slightly bitter tang of aniseed, are used in cooking to flavour sauces, particularly in fish and sometimes pork dishes. They are also chopped and added to mayonnaise, eggs and cold fish dishes. Fennel seeds are a common flavoring in spiced sausages and other cooked meats, Finocchiona salame being the best known of these.)

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

1 pound short pasta

Procedures:

1.Preheat the oven to 450°F. Combine the fennel, onion, garlic, oil, chili flakes, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in a roasting dish and roast, tossing once or twice during cooking, for 15 minutes.

2.In the meantime, bring a pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve some pasta cooking water.

3.After 15 minutes of roasting, stir in the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce, combining well. Roast 5 to 10 minutes more, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown.

4.Drain the pasta and toss with the roasted vegetables and Parmesan, adding some pasta cooking water if necessary until the sauce is loosened and coats the pasta. Serve immediately.DSC_0948

 

 

Scallops Belvedere

Happy New Year From Our Family To Your Family!!

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                                   Scallops Belvedere

       I know I promised I was going to write down 50 recipes as my 2015 New Year’s Resolution but it took me longer than I expected to combine cooking, writing, pictures and memories.  But no worries Jim and I will continue this fun project into 2016!

     For the New Year I would like to share the recipe for Scallops Belvedere. But before I delve right into the recipe I thought I would tell you all about scallops.  To cook scallops perfectly one needs to really understand scallops.  As I have often say about Italian cooking it not just about the recipe but the quality of the ingredients!

      We often see the typical white round scallop behind glass at the fish market.   But were you aware that scallops are mollusks that have two beautiful convexly ridged, or scalloped, shells. I am sure you have all come across the scallop shell at one time or other while taking a walk on the beach looking for the perfect shell!  The edible portion of the scallop is the white muscle that opens and closes the two shells and is called the “nut.” The reproductive glands known as “coral” are also edible, but not widely consumed here in the US.

      In the US we have three kinds of scallops available: Sea scallops, bay scallops and calico scallops.  For the Scallops Belvedere recipe, we use sea scallops. Sea scallops are relatively large, often 1½-2 inches in diameter, and are perfect for searing. We don’t recommend bay scallops because they are much smaller and not as good for searing. The Calico scallops are also not recommended because their shells are so tightly closed they must be steamed open before any further preparation.  The season for fresh sea scallops and bay scallops runs from October through March, while fresh calico scallops are available from December through May. Of course frozen scallops are available year-round.

      You may also come across “diver scallops”.  It doesn’t mean anything but the manner in which the scallops were harvested. Divers go down and choose mature scallops by hand, leaving behind immature scallops as well as leaving the ocean floor alone.  Since the ocean floor is not disturbed by the divers, diver scallops are usually less gritty than those harvested by bottom trawls. They are also more expensive than the ones harvested by trawling. Trawling is done by scraping the ocean floor and pulling up scallops without regard to maturity or to the damage possibly being done to the ocean floor.

   One of the most important facts to look for in scallops is  whether they are wet or dry scallops.  Dry scallops are the best!  Whatever you do not buy the wet scallops! Read on as I explain the differences and you will understand my reasons.

    Unfortunately, most scallops that you find from your fish monger or supermarket are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), a chemical that, while it is safe to consume, it ruins the ability to get a perfect sear on the scallop. These chemically treated scallops are called wet scallops.   STP loosens the structure of scallops making them sponge-like, where they soak up almost 30% of their original weight in water. This is an economical perk for fishmongers who sell scallops based on weight, but not for consumers who end up paying for the added water! What’s worse, the treatment makes scallops nearly impossible to sear because all that excess moisture floods the pan as soon as the scallops start to cook. The scallops end up being small, rubbery and pale with a soapy after-taste. You just can’t get the beautiful caramelization with a wet scallop that we want in a perfectly cooked scallop.  Please take notice that if they are wet scallops they are just labeled as scallops. 

    Dry scallops are untreated and don’t expel as much water as they cook. Although they are pricier and have a much shorter shelf life than wet scallops, dry scallops are superior in quality, flavor, and ease of cooking. Because they aren’t treated, they are certainly fresher when you find them at the fish counter, with a sweeter, brinier flavor.

     Now that I have explained that dry scallops are the ones to buy for this recipe, let me explain how to make sure you do get the dry scallops.  Either ask the fishmonger or check the label!  Fish counters selling dry scallops will most likely be proud of and advertise the fact that they are indeed dry. If it just states scallops most likely they are wet scallops.   Second, look at the container the scallops are held in. If there’s milky white liquid in the container they are probably treated with TSP. Finally, take a good look at the scallops themselves. Wet scallops have a ghostly, opaque, pale white or orange-white appearance. Dry scallops will be fleshier and more translucent!

      As an added note when purchasing scallops, make sure to buy from a reputable fishmonger and be sure to smell the scallops before purchase.  The scallops should smell clean and sweet and like the ocean.  If they have a strong fishy smell, do not buy them.

      I checked our first 1961 menu to see if we served scallops back in the day.  I found two entrees, fried scallops and scallops sautéed with mushrooms.  I found it interesting that they were both listed as Cape Cod Scallops. Now that you understand all about scallops please enjoy the following recipe that quickly became a favorite!

 

Scallops Belvedere

Served over Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Green Beans

 

Ingredients:

          8 (Dry) Sea Scallops (serves 2 people)

         1/3 cup white wine

         3 drops of tabasco sauce

         4 sprigs of fresh Rosemary ( pull apart leaves off of 2 sprigs and roughly chop) ( save 2 sprigs                for serving)

         ½ cup of Seafood Stock or Chicken Stock

         Salt to taste around ½ tsp

         1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley

         4 tablespoons of butter

         1 sliced clove of garlic

         4 sundried tomatoes julienned

         1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons  Canola oil (used for frying and sauteeing garlic)

          Flour for dredging

          Your favorite mashed potato recipe

          Steamed green beans

 

Procedure:

  1. Wash dry sea scallops and pat dry.DSC_0699 
  2. Dredge  dry sea scallops in flour, generously coating each scallop.DSC_0700
  3. Pour 1/3 cup of canola oil in skillet.  Heat until smoking hot!
  4. Sear scallops to a golden brown.  Don’t be concerned if they are cooked thru. This is just to get a golden crust. About 3-5 minutes.  Do not overcook.DSC_0703
  5. Remove scallops from pan and set aside.
  6. Drain most of the canola oil.  Leave the skillet crusty with a bit of oil that’s left.
  7. Deglaze the skillet with 1/3 cup of white wine over low heat stirring.DSC_0707
  8. Add 3 drops of tabasco sauce
  9. Add chopped rosemary,1/2 teaspoon of salt and ½ cup of seafood stockDSC_0710
  10. In a separate skillet saute the one clove of sliced garlic until golden in 2 Tbs of canola oil. Quickly take off the burner and add the 2 TBS pf chopped parsley.DSC_0711
  11. Add the garlic sauce to skillet.
  12. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 sundried tomatoes sliced into julienne strips.DSC_0712
  13. Once it all comes to a simmer add the prepared scallops and heat thru.DSC_0715
  14. Place mounds of mashed potatoes on each plate .
  15. Mound mashed potatoes with scallops.
  16. Dress plate with steamed green beans and sprigs of rosemary.
  17. Lastly pour the sauce over the prepared plate.DSC_0718

Buon Appetitto!!

Pasta w/ Tomato Basil Cream ala 825 MAIN

tomato basil cream pic

 Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 2 jars of 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce
  • Salt  to taste
  •  1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Basil, Chopped
  • 1-1/2 fresh pasta

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and  saute for a minute or so. Pour in 825 MAIN Pizza Margherita Sauce and add salt  to taste. Stir and cook over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in cream.  Check seasonings. Stir in pasta and chopped basil and serve immediately.

 

Chicken Manicotti

chicken manicotti
INGREDIENTS:
• 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
• 1 cup grated Parmagiana cheese, divided
• One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
• 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 2 cups half and half
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• One jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce
• 12 manicotti, cooked and rinsed in cold water

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium size bowl combine the ricotta, 1/2 of the cup parmagiana cheese, eggs, and mozzarella. Stir in the basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and chicken until well combined. Set the filling aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour, and the rest of the salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly just until the mixture starts to brown. Whisk in the half and half, stirring until becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the parmagiana cheese and nutmeg. Pour into large casserole dish, spreading around to completely to coat the bottom.
Place the filling into a large zip lock bag. Clip one corner and fill the manicotti from both sides and place over the white sauce. Repeat with the remaining manicotti and the filling. Pour the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce over manicotti evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella (or more if you like). Bake for about 25 minutes or until the filling is heated through.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fazul napolitana)

*Ditalini, which means “little thimbles” in Italian, is most typically used in the Campania region of Italy, where it graces Pasta E Fagioli. It’s a small tubular shaped pasta. The nutty flavor and firm “al dente” texture is a great addition to this Italian bean soup! Nothing like a hot bowl of Pasta e Fagioli to warm your bones on a cold winter day. I grew up this soup! The only thing you need for this soup is patience. Patience to soak the beans overnight and then patience to simmer the soup. But it is an easy recipe!

Fresh tomatoesIngredients
2 cups soaked great northern bean (dry beans, then soaked overnight) or two 15 oz cannellini beans
1/2 large chopped onion
2 stalks chopped celery
1 cup 825 Main Marinara Sauce
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
4 cups water
1/2 lb ditalini pasta*

Procedure
In a large pot saute onion and celery in 2 tbs of EVOO till opaque. Add rinsed soaked beans. Add water and Marinara Sauce. Simmer for 2 hours, cook ditalini in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minute. Add pasta to soup according to how much you would like. I always cook pasta separately and then add it when I am ready to serve. I love my pasta al denti. But it’s all according to how you like your pasta. If you like your pasta soft you can finish warming it up in the soup. But remember the pasta absorbs the liquid the longer you cook it in the soup.

Prep time: 15 minutes/overnight
Cooking time:  2 hours
Serves 4-6

Fra Diavolo Sauce

Fra diavolo, means “brother devil” in Italian,  is the name given to a number of spicy sauces, usually tomato-based, used in American Italian cooking.  Fra diavolo sauce is served  simply over pasta but most are prepared with one or more types of shellfish.  Coppola’s Restaurant has always served it featuring dishes like Calamari, Shrimp, clams, mussels and lobster Fra Diavolo.

Fresh tomatoesEven though “Fra Diavolo” is referred to as a Mediterranean specialty,  fra diavolo sauce popular in America’s thousands of Italian restaurants was actually developed in the US. While there are hot dishes called “devilled” or “alla diavolo” in other regions in Europe, there’s no similar tradition in southern Italian cooking. Italians are very fussy when it comes to their food so the robust spiciness of most fra diavolo sauces is enough to overpower many delicate shellfishes, especially lobster or scallops.  My dad in keeping with the popularity of “Fra Diavolo” sauce in America was always careful on how spicy he made the sauce because it was important that his customers taste the wonderful fresh taste of the seafood.

Ingredients
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sherry or white wine

Procedure
In a heavy large skillet add 1 jar of Marinara Sauce. Add  crushed red  pepper flakes and wine  and simmer 15 minutes. Pour over your favorite cooked pasta.  Add more crushed red pepper flakes if you would like it hotter. Seafood can be added to Fra Diavolo sauce by using the procedure for adding mussels and clams as described in the Mussels in Marinara Sauce and Zuppe di Clams Marinara recipes.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves 4

Putanesca Sauce

The history of the puttanesca sauce is interesting. Some say, because of the Italian translation of the name, puttanesca, which means prostitute, a whore’s favorite meal. But I know a much likelier version of this history from my mom’s home town, the island of Ischia. Apparently, it was late one night and clients showed up to their favorite restaurant in Ischia, Italy. The owner quickly informed them he was about to close and thus didn’t have anything to serve them…The clients, being very hungry as they were, simply replied, “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi”, meaning just cook us anything! So the owner turned around and using what he had left in his kitchen, he improvised that night and created the puttanesca sauce!

Olives250Ingredients
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
5 anchovy filets packed in olive oil (chopped)
1/2 cup chopped green olives or black kalamata olives
1/3 cup sherry wine
3 Tbl of small capers
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes

Procedure
Heat EVOO in large heavy skillet and melt chopped anchovies till it turns to paste like.  Add jar of Marinara Sauce and  rest of the ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes.  Then pour over  your favorite cooked pasta.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:  15 minutes
Serves 4

Penne alla Vodka

Vodka releases flavors from the tomatoes that are alcohol soluble. The alcohol coaxes those flavors out and then disappears. But the alcohol does lend some flavor. It is almost sweet, peppery flavor that makes the tomatoes taste sweeter. If you can taste the alcohol, the sauce hasn’t cooked enough. The cream should be added at the end after the alcohol has cooked out, so that the cream doesn’t de-stabilize and break in the presence of all that acid.)

Penne PastaIngredients
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
3/4 cup vodka
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese

Procedure
In a heavy large skillet add 1 jar of  Marinara sauce. Pour 3/4 cup of vodka sauce and simmer for 15 minutes  on medium heat till the sauce reduces. Add heavy cream and heat through. Add grated cheese and stir till all melted, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time:  20 minutes
Serves 4