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.
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!
Sunday sauce is a rich meaty traditional sauce to serve for a big family meal. It is best cooked low and slow for several hours. You can also add Italian sausage and or meatballs to the sauce, depending on the size of your meal. This makes a very double portion. I use it for a meal for 5-8 people, and freeze the rest for another meal in the future.
You will need:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 pork short ribs (around a 1lb)
1/4 pound pancetta
several Italian sausage links, spicy or sweet depending on preference*
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
5-6 fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup red wine
Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes.
2 pounds penne, ziti or pasta or your choice (one that can support a hearty meat sauce)
2 tablespoons tomato paste* if needed
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
In a large enameled cast-iron pot, heat 2 Tbs olive oil until shimmering. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole in a single layer along with the sausage links. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned, around 10 minutes. With tongs, transfer the short ribs and sausages to a plate and set aside..
Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Add 2 more Tbs of olive oil. Add the onions & carrot, and a generous pinch of salt; cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, 7-9 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, pancetta and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the vegetables and pancetta with 1/3 cup red wine until the liquid is evaporated.
Add the tomatoes with their juices. Be sure to rinse a little of each can with some extra water to get all the bits, swirl it around and add to the pot. Season with red pepper flakes and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil.
Return the short ribs, sausages and their juices to the pot, cover partially and simmer over low heat, turning the short ribs occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thick, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
30 minutes before serving: Set a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. For your Sunday sauce – add fresh basil leaves 30 minutes before serving. Add more oregano or salt as needed. If necessary, add tomato paste in the last half hour to thicken the sauce as needed. Finish off the sauce with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
20 minutes before serving: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. and set aside
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Transfer the pasta and toss well with some of the sunday sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add some of the reserved pasta water and work it in. Top with additional cheese and pieces of meat from the sauce.
You need a lot of time to make a proper Bolognese sauce, as it is best left to simmer for around 3-4 hours. As a result, this is a perfect Sunday sauce – leaving it to simmer all day and fill the house with good aroma:) What sets a Bolognese apart from other meat sauces is the sofritto (onion, celery and carrot) and the addition of milk or cream. You can use wine here two ways – deglaze the vegetables before you add the meat, or deglaze the meat before you add tomato. I have done it both ways, but this recipe will be incorporating the wine with the meat. This portion should make a double batch for a family of 5-6. We use half, and then freeze the other for a day we don’t feel like cooking. Always serve with a great loaf of bread and pasta.
You will need:
3-4 Tbs olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1 cup small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
Salt, 3-4 tsp (divided)
Black pepper, 1 tsp
1 bay leaf
Fresh basil (7-8 leaves)
1 pounds ground beef (85 or 90% lean)
1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage
1 cup dry red wine
1 quart or large can (28 oz) peeled tomatoes (I prefer Cento San Marzano)
1 quart or large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 pound wide pasta – Pappardelle or Tagliatelle
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add celery and carrot, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and saute for an additional 4-5 minutes.
Add meat and break up with a wooden spoon, stir and mix the sofritto (onion, celery, carrots) until browned. Season with another tsp of salt. Add red wine and cooked until it is reduced and the liquid is mostly evaporated (around 7 -8 minutes).
Add tomatoes, breaking them up and incorporating them into the mixture. Add remaining salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Fill one of the tomato cans with water (getting all of the tomato juice mixed in) and add to the pot. Fill the other tomato can with water and set aside, in case you need to add more liquid to the pot later on.
Reduce and simmer the sauce for 3 and 1/2 hours. The goal is that the water should be almost evaporated and the sauce should be thick* (use extra water if needed as it simmers) or if it is too liquid, add some tomato paste to thicken it up. After 3 and 1/2 hours, add the fresh basil on top and stir into the sauce.
In another pot, heat salted water and cook your pasta until al dente. Before you strain it, reserve one cup of pasta water and set aside.
After four hours, your sauce should be thick enough that when you move the wooden spoon across the bottom of the pot, you should see it the bottom. Taste the sauce and add more salt, if needed.
To finish, add 1/2 cup of milk or cream, and cook for several more minutes.
Using a clean large sauce pan, heat it over medium-high heat. Add half of the portion of Bolognese sauce and cooked pasta and incorporate. Add 1/2 cup pasta reserve water and work it through – add more if needed. Incorporate the Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.
Caponata is an awesome summer dish native to Sicily and Southern Italy. It is a prime example of something that does not look very appealing, but tastes like gold. Ideally, you make a large batch and then keep in the fridge, to chill. It is far better chilled on a hot summer day. Spread it on your bread while you socialize with family and friends and wait for dinner. Although recipes vary, as all good ones do, I love it with a lot of capers.
This is a recipe that I have enjoyed over the years, but didn’t have family knowledge to know exactly how to make. Years ago, I tried out a few, and found this one was close to what I was looking for.
1 ½ pounds eggplant (1 large), roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3large garlic cloves, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
Salt to taste
1 pound ripe tomatoes, (preferably romas), or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes (in puree)
3 heaped tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons plus a pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (more to taste)
freshly ground pepper to taste
Roast the eggplant in the oven, allow to cool and chop coarsely.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet and add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook together for a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant, and add the peppers and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until just about tender, about 8 minutes. Add another tablespoon of oil and the eggplant, and stir together for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. The eggplant will fall apart, which is fine. Season to taste.
Add the tomatoes to the pan with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan often, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and they smell fragrant. Add the capers, olives, remaining sugar, and vinegar. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly tender and the mixture is quite thick, sweet, and fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. If possible, cover and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature.
This is a very refreshing salad to bring to a party or serve at lunchtime. We used to have a grocery store that made an excellent version of this, and the recipe that follows is the inspiration. I also borrowed heavily from a version that Gia DeLaurentis makes. The beauty is you can add or sub in any ingredients you want. For example, there are versions with fresh tomatoes or garbanzo beans – whatever inspires you.
Recipe level: easy
Time: 20 minutes
You will need:
1 1/2 c. orzo
4 c. Chicken broth
1/4 cup red onion, minced
3/4 cup feta
1/2 cup sweet pepper, chopped fine
Sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, quartered
For the dressing:
1/2 c. Red wine vinegar
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
3 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 c. Virgin olive oil
1/2 c. fresh basil
1/4 c. Fresh mint
Boil the chicken broth and add the orzo. Make sure to stir, because orzo can get starchy. Cook for about seven minutes and then drain and set aside.
Assemble the dressing and then toss with drained orzo.