This is a very rustic, simple breakfast, yet it remains a family favorite. It seems ridiculous to write out this recipe or suggest this as a breakfast idea, but after seeing it on several tapas menus, I thought it might be worthwhile. This is ideal when you have some good, crusty bread laying around and a ripe Campari or Roma tomato.
You will need:
Slice of a baguette or ciabatta bread
Splash of olive oil (1 tbs)
1-2 ripe Campari or Roma tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
Scrunch of fresh ground salt
Heat a sauté pan or skillet to medium and add olive oil when hot
Heat bread in olive oil, making sure to allow the side that will have tomatoes to develop a nice crust
Add garlic and tomatoes. They should get blisteringly hot and soft. You can do this beside the bread if your pan is large enough.
Smear the crushed tomatoes across the top of the bread and add the tiniest scrunch of salt to bring out the tomato flavor.
These are the classic Christmas cookie that I grew up with and this is my great-grandmother’s recipe. The recipe itself could possibly go further back.
While many families get nostalgic about sugar cookies or their specific treats, these were the cookies that we prized the most in my family. My mother was the master at this, and always made them well in advance of her mother’s Christmas Eve party. It was difficult work hiding them from us, and I remember scouring cupboards, sewing tins, and the deep freezer in a vain attempt to find them. In truth, they symbolize a lot for me – the work my mother put in, my grandmother’s amazing Christmas Eve family party where our extended relatives rolled up in car after car. We were so happy to see each other and be around our cousins, aunts and uncles. This was a time when video cameras were not an economic reality for most. A few pictures exist, but what remains is mostly in my mind. I don’t remember a lot of the food that was served (although I am certain there was a massive amount), because I was focused only one thing – my utter excitement at seeing those cookies on the plate and finally being allowed to eat them. We never ran out, despite all of those people – no doubt due to my mother’s insanely good hiding skills.
Supposedly the crescent shape is to symbolize victory over the Turks, but who knows? What I do know is that I miss the bygone era of dressing your best, and celebrating your whole extended family without the distraction of phones and television. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were so very fortunate to have one another.
I’ve seen many iterations of this cookie, and even ones where you dip the ends in chocolate. I hope you pardon my insistence that the old way is the best way – at least for me. Sometimes simplicity is the best way, because it connects me to a time and place that lives only in my heart and memories. It’s also really delicious.
2 cups cake flour or soft flour (White Lily)
1 pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped into the dough
Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the rest of ingredients util a crumbly dough forms. If the dough is too crumbly, add 1-2 tbs water
Use your hands and press the dough together and wrap in plastic wrap.
Chill the dough for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
Break off the dough in to the size of a small walnut and roll into small cylinders and taper the ends into dull points. Each should be the length and thickness of your pinkie finger. Bend into a crescent shape and place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 14 -17 minutes until edges are golden. They should not brown. Dust with vanilla powdered sugar while slightly warm. When cool, dust again or roll them around in sugar.
*Pro tip -if you find it tricky to roll between your hands, cover a board with plastic wrap and roll the pieces against the plastic, using the heel of your hand
*Pro tip – Place two vanilla pods in your container for powdered sugar to infuse it with more flavor.
Amaretti are classic Italian cookies. There are many iterations – this one is soft, light and airy with a slightly crunchy outer layer. You can forgo the powdered sugar at the end for a more traditional biscotti to have with your coffee in the morning. This version is powdered and decadent for the holidays. It is also gluten-free, so it is a great alternative to other holiday cookies out there.
5 egg whites
one pinch of salt
5 cups almond flour
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp lemon zest* (optional)
Separate 5 egg whites into a bowl, then add a pinch of salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Sift 5 cups of almond flour with 1 and 1/2 cups of granulated sugar into a bowl.
Add about 1/3 of the almond flour mixture into the egg whites and fold it in gently with a spatula. Do this very gently so you do not knock the air out.
Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp of almond extract to the mixture and then quickly fold it in.
Add the second third of the almond flour mixture to the egg whites and gently fold it in.
Add in the remaining third of the almond flour mixture and fold it in one last time. At this point, the cookie dough should have a thick paste like texture.
Scoop out mounds of the cookie dough and place them onto a plate of the remaining granulated sugar. Roll the scoop of cookie dough into the sugar, then take it into your hands and round it out to a ball.
Drop the ball into a bowl of powdered sugar and evenly coat it.
Place the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly press each cookie with your hand. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.
The base of Amatriciana is guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese and tomatoes. It is a fairly simple recipe to put together and you can use pancetta as a substitute for guanciale. Dried pasta is preferred – I prefer bucatini, but spaghetti or penne are perfectly acceptable. The recipe that follows is not mine – I got inspiration from Top Chef contestant Buddha and his “marry me” pasta. This is almost completely his recipe and we absolutely loved it. It has a lot of depth and flavor and is best served piping hot. Make sure to use a pan or cast-iron skillet/enamel ware that you can stick in the oven.
1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz guanciale or pancetta
2 medium red shallots (finely diced)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 oz finely chopped thyme
1 lb (16oz) bucatini
1 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
Over medium heat, add guanciale or pancetta to pot and cook for 5-7 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a small bowl lined with a paper towel and set aside, leaving any rendered fat behind in the pot.
Add shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to the pot, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and continue stirring constantly. Add canned tomatoes and place a lid on the pot. Then take the pot and place in a 380F oven for 45 min.
When you pull the pot from the oven, with a crush the tomatoes with a whisk into a sauce and add the crispy guanciale back into skilled and stir into the sauce until all the ingredients are incorporated. Season with salt to taste. Keep the sauce on low simmer.
Boil bucatini until just shy of al dente. Using a large, slotted spoon transfer the pasta directly into the skillet and toss with the sauce and mix. Reserve a little pasta water to work into the sauce as needed until pasta is creamy and coated.
Serve with finely grated pecorino, red pepper flakes and a splash of olive oil.
Pasta arriabbiata refers to a tomato, red chili peppers, and garlic-based sauce. I found this recipe* using sun-gold tomatoes and butter and found it absolutely simple, yet delicious. You can use dry pasta, but we made homemade and the flavor made all the difference. You can also use traditional cherry tomatoes, but we absolutely loved the flavor of the sun-gold tomatoes, cooked down. Fresh parmesan, of course is preferred, but store-shredded is also fine. In the end, the sauce itself is very simple – both in ingredients and assembly. If you prefer to make this vegetarian, simply leave out the anchovy paste and add a bit more salt to taste.
If you are going to make homemade pasta, you will need to do so about 2 hours ahead: for assembly, and hour and 1/2 to rest and dry. If not, any shape will do. We made ours with orecchiette, but it is truly your preference. The recipe is here: Pasta – Orecchiette.
You will need:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pints sun-gold cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbs butter, unsalted
1 tsp anchovy sauce
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, dried
1 cup shredded parmesan
Handful of fresh basil, torn
Kosher salt, as needed
1lb dried orecchiette or
3 cups semolina flour (fine) & salt for fresh orecchiette (for making fresh pasta)
To make the sauce
Heat olive oil in heavy pot (like a dutch oven) over medium heat. Also heat separate pot with salted water for your pasta.
Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes)
Mix 1 pint of the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and cook until tomatoes burst and become saucy (about 8 -10 minutes)
Cook fresh pasta in salted water (2-4 minutes, depending on type).
Using slotted spoon or tongs, transfer pasta to tomato pot. Be sure to save a little starchy pasta water as a reserve.
Add butter, anchovy sauce, and remaining tomatoes to the pot and stir. Cook until glossy, adding pasta water as needed, until it is creamy. Season with salt and stir in parmesan. Top with fresh basil.
*Pasta recipe is my own. The recipe for the sauce is from Bon Appetit.
Orecchiette is my favorite short pasta. It means “little ears” and is pretty typical of southern Italy. I like it best because it holds the sauce in its little pocket, and when it is made fresh, the texture is absolutely delicious.
Count on prepping this two hours ahead. You will need 1/2 hour to rest the dough once assembled, a 1/2 hour to shape, and an hour to let the pasta dry. As a result, this is something I would only make on familia Sunday – maybe when I have extra hands to help or a little extra time. We are just too busy during the week.
Homemade pasta is the more flavorful than dried, and while you can certainly use all-purpose flour (I often do), a good quality fine-grade semolina flour makes a world of difference in texture and bite. Also, when you do little hand-rolled or knife shapes, I think it is a bit of fun. So if you have the time and resources, give it a try. This is a great-tasting semolina flour from Naples from Amazon and is the one I used for the recipe. Rimacinata refers to it being ground finely – this is idea for pasta and pizza dough. Pro-tip – when buying bags of flour of the internet, I put it in the freezer for 24 hours and then store in an air-tight container.
Serving size – 5-6 adults
You will need:
3 to 3 1/3 cups of semolina flour
1 cup water, room temperature
2/3 tsp fine salt
Place flour on a large pastry or cutting board and make a well in the center with your hand. Add salt to the center.
Add water a little at a time, working the dough with your hand and making sure it is incorporated before adding more. You can use a tablespoon or your hand, whichever is easier for you.
Knead the dough for about 6-7 minutes, until it is elastic and put together. You don’t want to overwork it and get it sticky.
Form a dough ball and let it rest under a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
When rested, use a knife to cut off a portion of the dough. Roll into a snake shape until it is about one inch thick.
Cut off slices about 1 cm wide.
Use a knife with a round tip (like a typical dinner knife). Roll the slice towards you, pressing down.
Then, take the pasta and shape it around your index finger on the opposite side. Repeat.
Be sure not to place them sticking together, but giving a little room. Let the pasta dry for an hour before serving.
*You may need to dust the board a bit with additional semolina flour.
This fiery shrimp and tomato pasta is easy to make and very satisfying. The name Fra Diavolo translates to “brother devil.” The origins are southern Italy where there is abundant seafood, herbs and fiery peppers. If you know this blog, we also often make shrimp Diablo (a Latin American iteration with cilantro and avocado) when I have some good avocado. I love this dish when it is getting cold – the pasta comforts you and the chilis warm you up. They say not to put cheese on this because its seafood, but I often put a little fresh parmesan on top because it makes me happy.
You will need:
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb linguini
1 sweet bell pepper (yellow or orange), sliced thinly
4 roma tomatoes, halved – then quartered
one 28 oz can, whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), with juice
juice of 2 limes
2-3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs salt
4 cloves garlic – crushed*
3 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbs capers
2 tbs anchovy paste
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Marinate the shrimp in lime juice and a bit of salt for 20-30 minutes.
Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil.
Heat large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil when warm. Add garlic and saute for a minute or so. Add pepper slices and stir and cook for 3 minutes until they soften a little.
Add oregano, bay leaves, thyme and saute for 2 minutes. Then, add crushed pepper and capers, saute for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add roma tomatoes, saute for 5 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes, you can crush them with your fingers beforehand or break them up with a wooden spoon, cook for 5-7 minutes. Add anchovy paste, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add butter halfway through to add richness and depth.
By now, the pasta water should be boiling. Add remaining salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. Reserve a little pasta water before draining (about a cup).
While the pasta is cooking, add shrimp and cook until it just turns pink (4-5 minutes). Add parsley to finish. Use reserve pasta water if needed when you add noodles to the sauce and work it in.
*Note – if you have difficulty peeling fresh garlic, soak them in a dish of hot water for a few minutes. Voila! Easy to peel!
There are so many different types of sofrito, depending on region and culture. At its essence, it is an aromatic vegetable base used as a base for rice dishes, stews and beans. It can also be used as a marinade or base layer of flavor for your meat and your side dishes. For the French, it is Mirepoix, which Cajun/Creole cooks might refer to it as the holy trinity (carrots, onions, celery). Italian cooks call the same base after adding garlic and parsley – sofritto. If you follow this site, you will notice that I often use this base for some of the Italian sauces/dishes. For Latin American cooks, different chiles and cilantro are often blended in. Spaniards add in tomatoes.
Our sofrito is a mashup of Spanish (Spain) and Latin American. We make a batch of it on Sundays and keep it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. We usually make romesco at the same time, which we add to our seafood and breakfast meals (eggs, sausage, potatoes).
Ways to use it:
Marinate your chicken or pork in it, before adding other seasoning and cooking.
Add to black beans, stews, or rice dishes
As a base for paella.
As a base to go with a meat filling for empanadas
1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 medium yellow onions , finely diced
2 large green peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
4 medium tomatoes
2 tsps sweet smoked paprika
* handful of fresh cilantro (optional)
* a dash of cumin and/or oregano (optional)
Dice your onions, garlic, pepper, and tomatoes.
Place a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, coating the bottom evenly.
When the oil is hot, saute the onions until transparent. Grind or add a little salt (1/2 tsp).
Add pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Stir to avoid burning the vegetables, and reduce the heat if necessary.
Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Grind or add a little more salt (1/2 tsp).
Next, add the tomatoes and paprika, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add in the fresh cilantro (about a handful of shredded leaves). Stir often and continue to cook for around 15 minutes, or until the mixture takes on the consistency of a thick sauce.
Scoop the finished sofrito into mason jars and store in the fridge for up to a week.
This is a recipe that goes way back in my family and is often served alongside rich, hearty stews and dishes. The vinegary paper-thin cucumbers pair well with rich food, or those with chilis and act almost as a cooling pickle. This is my mother’s recipe.
You will need:
2-3 cucumbers, peeled, ends sliced off.
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbs salt
1/4 cup white vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
pinch of sugar
Peel 2 – 3 cucumbers – taste the end to be sure they are not bitter. If they are, cut them off and discard
Using a mandolin on the thinnest setting, slice the cucumbers paper thin.
Place cucumbers, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon salt in large bowl and mix around with your hands. Let stand for 30 minutes, then wash the slices in a strainer under cold, running water. Drain.
Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar (I use Champagne vinegar) with 1 tablespoon cold water and a pinch of sugar. Mix with cucumbers and chill.