Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Creamy Pappardelle with Leaks and Bacon

This rich white cream sauce for pasta is excellent as either a main dish or as a side. The bacon is predominant and gives it a warm, smokey flavor. The original recipe calls for pappardelle but any broad pasta should suffice.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 40 minutes
  • Servings: 6


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound pappardelle or fettuccine
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano


  1. Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until leeks begin to brown, 5-8 minutes. Add cream, thyme, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  3. Add pasta, Parmesan, and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to sauce and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta.

Meat Stuffed Shells

This is a delicious recipe taken almost verbatim from Emeril Lagasse. The only changes I’ve made have been to add a little more sauce and cheese and to alter the cooking a bit so that it doesn’t dry out. This recipe freezes very well–just allow extra time for thawing and a little more baking.

  • Prep Time: 90 minutes
  • Baking Time: 25 minutes
  • Servings: 7 (3 shells each)


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (18 to 20 shells)
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound ground veal
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Essence (Creole Seasoning)

2 1/2 parts paprika
2 parts salt
2 part garlic powder
1 part black pepper
1 part onion powder
1 part cayenne pepper
1 part dried leaf oregano
1 part dried thyme

Basic Red Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
16 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, broken into pieces, and their juices
16 ounces tomato sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pasta shells, and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long-handled spoon to prevent the shells from sticking together. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until very soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the ground veal and cook, stirring, until cooked and browned. Add the squeezed spinach and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add the spinach mixture, the extra-virgin olive oil, Essence, remaining teaspoon of salt, the basil, oregano, and pepper, and stir to combine thoroughly. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the spinach-ricotta filling into each cooked pasta shell. Place the filled shells in the prepared dish.
  5. Pour the Basic Red Sauce over the filled shells and top with the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 15 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 10, until bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Basic Red Sauce

  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, salt, basil, oregano, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and sugar. Stir well. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and fragrant, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally

Yield: 3 cups

Preparation/Cooking Notes

As with all noodles, allow the shells decent time to cool so that sauce can adhere well.

Serving Notes

Goes well with aa green green vegetable (e.g., green beans). Be sure to include bread (garlic or regular Italian) to sop up the delicious sauce!

Calamari Fra Diavolo

The past few weeks the squid have been thick as fleas at the Nahant wharf. Ben and I have been catching our fill of the tasty  little buggers. With a mild taste and needing minimal cooking time, calamari are ideally suited to sauces. Here’s one I adapted for them from a dish originally designed for shrimp. It also takes advantage of the fresh herbs abundant in the garden this time of year. Serve alone or over pasta or rice.

The quantities are rough and can be scaled to taste.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes (this does not include any time needed to dress the squid)
  • Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Servings:  8 servings


  • 2 large (28 oz) cans of whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 6-8 medium (approx 8 inches long) squid heads, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salt to taste (1 tsp approx)


  1. In a pot, heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Concurrently, in a saute pan, heat the other two tsp.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onions to pot and the sausage to the sautee pan.
  3. Brown the sausage. Then remove it from the heat and place in a colander to drain.
  4. When the onion is translucent, add the tomatoes, wine, garlic, and oregano. As you add them, squeeze each tomato in your hand to reduce it to a rough pulp. Also pour in the juice from the tomatoes.
  5. Stir the mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir from time to time, making sure not to burn the sauce.
  6. Add the sausage, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp salt. Stir and return to simmer for 10 minutes. While it cooks, taste the sauce and adjust the ingredients as necessary.
  7. Add the calamari and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Calamari takes very little time to cook so take care not to overcook it!

Preparation/Cooking Notes

  • Make sure the calamari is well-drained before you add it. If necessary, pat it dry with a paper towel. The sauce will coat it much better than if it is wet.
  • Two teaspoons of red pepper flakes makes for a nicely spicy sauce.  I would not recommend more. For people who prefer less spice, use only 1 teaspoon.


  • Shrimp can be used in place of or in addition to the calamari.
  • While you can substitute crushed or even ground tomatoes, whole tomatoes give the dish a much more interesting texture.

Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce

Smoked-Tomato-Sauce-2This recipe comes to me from an Italian friend who wrote:  “Mike, once you do this (if you enjoy cooking) you will never buy sauce from a jar again in your life. I make HUGE pots of gravy–freeze it in family size portions and have it for dinner for weeks.”

The basic sauce is quite simple. If you prefer, you can dress it up using a number of variations.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 2-4 hours
  • Servings: Makes 1 gallon of sauce


  • 3 or 4 cans of whole plum (Italian) tomatoes (I prefer San Marzanos)
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medim onion, chopped
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Blend the whole tomatoes,  smooth or chunky, according to your preference.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and fry lightly. Do not brown the garlic; just let the garlic and onion get soft and infuse the oil.
  3. Add blended tomatos and puree and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. For a thinner sauce, cover pot. For a thicker sauce, do not cover. Cook for two hours or more. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Stir constantly to avoid burning the sauce.
  5. When the sauce is just about done add basil leaves and cook a little longer.

Preparation/Cooking Notes

  • Be careful not to burn sauce. Keep heat low and stir often.
  • The same is true of the garlic/onion; be careful not to brown it or the sauce will have a burnt taste. If you accidentally do, better to throw it out and start again.


  • Fry some Italian sausages and add to the pot.
  • Lightly fry up 2-3 country style spare ribs (the really meaty ones) and add them to the pot. After about 4 hours of simmering, the meat of the ribs just falls off the bone in shreds and makes for a very nice texture/taste. As an alternative, instead of ribs add 1 or 2 lightly fried Braciola.
  • In the olive oil/garlic/onion mix, prior to adding the tomatoes, add a full tube of double-strength San Marzano tomato paste and cook well. This infuses the oil/veggie mixture into the paste.
  • Add one or more of the following to the sauce: fresh parsely, more basil, oregano, a few bay leaves, 1 or 2 thin strips of green bell pepper.