Linguine with Tuna, Capers and Olives

The addition of lemon zest brings out the freshness of this dish and complements the tuna

It’s hard to believe summer is officially over. Lots of things change after Labor Day. Living in the Poconos in North East Pennsylvania, Labor Day is the last hurrah of vacationers that come here to play. The next day you notice that things have changed. The roads are less busy, stores are not as crowded and there is a sense in the air that fall is coming. Many stay after Labor Day and many come back on the weekends and take advantage of Indian Summer, but for the most part things settle down here. The next wave are the hunters that take advantage of all the state land we have here to hunt and fish.

As the weather changes and cools so does my cooking. I start thinking more about stews and soups and different pasta dishes that warms your soul for the coming winter. This dish is sort of a transition to my winter cooking. It’s a pasta dish but the sauce does not involve any cooking. You prep the sauce in a bowl, cook the pasta and combine everything to make this tasty dish. I use canned tuna for this recipe so I suggest you use the best quality tuna you can find.

This recipe is made with 8 ounces of Linguine so adjust the ingredients if you make more.

  • 5 ounces of solid albacore tuna, packed in water or olive oil, drained and broken into small pieces by hand
  • 1/8 cup of capers, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pitted black Kalamata or Gaeta olives , finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 8 ounces of linguine
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Fill a 6 quart pot with water and bring to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt. Cook the linguine according to the package directions or until it’s al dente.

While the macaroni is cooking, in a large bowl add the chopped capers, olives, parsley and drained tuna. In a small pot melt the butter in olive oil. Combine the olive oil/butter mixture with the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well.

Drain the cooked pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Add the linguine to the ingredients in the bowl and mix well. Add some pasta water to moisten, about 3/4 cup. Add the grated cheese and grate the lemon zest over the pasta. Serve immediately.

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Pork Shoulder/Blade Roast, Boneless

I get my pork locally from my friend Noemi who raises them. This roast is what I have left from a half pig we shared last fall. I’m not a butcher but from what I can gather this cut is a boneless shoulder or blade roast. The boneless cut from what we know as country style ribs. The label that the processor put on read Pork Loin Roast. But I don’t think it’s the loin. Anyway, this is some of the adventures of cooking. This cut has a layer of fat on one side that I’m not going to trim away but let it cook down and flavor the rest of the roast. One thing about Noemi’s pork is, they are all organically raised heritage pigs and taste nothing like the “other white meat” that passes as pork from commercial farms. This pork is darker and much more flavorful. To add some sweetness I added cut up dried fruit that works very well. You can also use a cut up sweet apple if you like.

  • 2-3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, and marjoram)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, diced (pineapple, apricot, papaya, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 water
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

This is what the meaty side of the roast looks like

Lay the pork roast on a cutting board and score the fat side diagonally in two opposite directions so you form a diamond pattern. Don’t cut all the way through the fat but only half way. Pat the meat dry on both sides with a paper towel.

Rub the olive oil over both sides of the pork. Now rub your Italian seasoning and salt and pepper on both sides of the meat.

In a roasting pan place the sliced onion, dried fruit, garlic and potatoes across the bottom of the pan. Add the Red wine vinegar, white wine, water drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and mix it all well. Put the roast, fat side up, in the middle of the pan on top of the onions, spreading the potatoes around the roast.

Place the roast, uncovered in the oven and let roast for 2 hours. Stir the potatoes and onions halfway through the time. Check the roast and add some water if it dries out. The last half hour turn the oven temperature up to 375 to nicely brown everything.

Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the potatoes and onion and pan drippings.

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Roasted Pork Spare Ribs

So, It’s the middle of December and you have a hankering for some good BBQ but your smoker is put away and you don’t want to stand out in 30 degree temperature smoking some ribs. What do you do? If you’re like me you find another way to do it, short of going out and finding a good Southern Style BBQ restaurant worth its salt.

I have tried many methods of making good BBQ spare ribs in the house and this, by far, is the best way to do it. Like anything else it’s all about technique. Many people wrap their ribs in foil and cook it for hours to get that fall off the bone quality. To me you might as well boil them in water because that is what they are doing inside the foil. Granted, this method I use does not produce the pink circle that is the hallmark of properly smoked meats. But the flavor and tenderness of this method gives you a rib you can be proud of. And it taste great.

First off, you’re going to need a 18″ x 13″ sheet pan with an edge and a rack that fits inside of it to keep the ribs raised and off the bottom. Some heavy duty aluminum foil, and a good rub. That’s pretty much it for the equipment.

MY BBQ DRY RUB

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano

This recipe makes more than enough for 2 rack of ribs. After I mix it and save some for what I’m cooking I place the rest in a jar for future use.

  • 2 racks of fresh St Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • BBQ Dry Rub
  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce

Prepare your pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Take the heavy duty aluminum foil and cover the bottom of the pan. Make sure the foil comes up the sides. It will save you clean up at the end. Place the rack on top of the foil in the pan.

If you use St Louis Style ribs you will be able to fit 2 racks on your sheet pan. If you can’t find St Louis Style just trim off the top portion of the ribs, at the soft cartilage, and save those ends for another recipe. They go great with pork and beans. Pull the membrane off at the back of the ribs. Find a corner and with the help of a paper towel, grab the end and rip it off in one full sheet. Discard the membrane.

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on both sides of the first rack, rub about two tablespoons of the dry rub to each side of the ribs. Repeat with the second rack. Place the rack of ribs, meaty side up, onto your rack on the sheet pan and place, uncovered, into you oven. Allow to roast for 2 hours, untouched. Don’t disturb, the ribs will brown and caramelize perfectly.

After two hours in the oven. Browning is perfect and the meat is pulling back from the bones.

At this point you can finish the ribs on an outdoor BBQ, coating them with your favorite BBQ sauce, or finish them in the oven.

Turn on your broiler to low and after brushing with your BBQ sauce, broil at least 10 minutes each side, until bubbly and caramelized. Allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes before cutting them.

Nice and browned after cooking under broiler. Notice the bones sticking out from the meat. That is a good sign of fall off the bone tender.
Slice them up and serve with extra BBQ sauce if you like.
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Cavatelli with Broccoli and Italian Sausage

This dish has all the flavors I grew up eating from my grandmother’s kitchen. Pork and broccoli with garlic and oil with the olives. The cavatelli turn this into a complete meal that is very tasty and satisfying. This is an old school dish, do not make the broccoli crunchy, it has to cook down well so it’s soft and melts into the rest of the disk. I don’t add any salt until the end and taste if it even needs it. I hope you enjoy it.

Cavatelli with broccoli and Italian sausage

  • 1 pound sweet Italian Sausage, casing removed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound or large head of broccoli
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup oil cured or Kalamata olives, pitted and rough chopped.
  • 2 teaspoons of chicken soup base or two bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound of Cavatelli

In a large pot bring plenty of salted water to a boil and cook the broccoli for 6-7 minutes. Drain the broccoli but reserve the liquid. Allow the broccoli to cool. Rough chop into bite size pieces, set aside.

In a heavy frying pan with the heat on high, break up the pieces of sausage and brown till they caramelize. Lower the heat and add the olive oil, and cook the garlic for 1 minute till fragrant. Add the white wine and broccoli and cook down till the alcohol evaporates. The broccoli should be cooked well, old school. Add the chicken soup base and olives. Stir everything well.

In the meantime bring the pot of broccoli water to a boil and cook the cavatelli in it 7-8 minutes. Add more water if needed.

Before you drain the cavatelli, add about two ladles of the water to the broccoli and sausage in the frying pan. Drain the cavatelli and add to the fry pan with the sauce. Cook while stirring about 2 minutes then take off the heat and add the grated cheese and red pepper flakes. Taste for salt.

Posted in Pasta, Pork | Tagged | 2 Comments

WHITE CLAM PIZZA

The simple clam. Italians have found many ways to savor this delicate mollusk. Raw right out of it’s shell, sprinkled with flavored bread crumbs and baked, sautéed with a mixture of garlic and oil and served over pasta, just to name a few. I grew up eating raw clams as part of a ritual when my father would take me to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. After a day at the beach we would walk to Sheepshead Bay and stop at a strip of restaurants that were opposite the rows of charter boats that would take you out for a day of fishing. We would stop at Joe’s Clam Bar, an unpretentious restaurant that had an open outdoor window that you could walk up to and order the tasty clams. Little Necks and Cherry Stones were both $1.25 per dozen, quite a difference from todays prices. Of course we would order two dozen of the Cherry Stones because they were larger and gave you more value for your money. The man on the other side of the window stood in front of a large metal sink filled with the clams covered in ice. We watched him shuck each clam and place them on a heavy paper plate, waiting in anticipation for the cool, briny mollusk we would suck down. Once he was finished he put a couple of lemon wedges and a little cup of cocktail sauce on each plate and served them to us. At once I squeezed the lemon wedge over the clams and place a dot of cocktail sauce on each clam. There were bottles of vinegar with hot peppers marinating in them close by but I liked mine with just lemon and cocktail sauce. I sucked the clams out of their shells and enjoyed the chew of each one and the taste of the sea that flavored them. The dozen was gone in an instant and I knew I could eat more but my father warned me that my mother was preparing supper and we did not want to go home full.

This dish combines two of my favorite food groups, pizza and clams. It’s a simple recipe that highlights the taste of the clam. Unlike other traditional toppings, clams add a delicate flavor to the pizza and you don’t want to over power it with other strong flavors.

For the Pizza Dough (makes 2 – 10″ x 14″ trays of pizza)

  • 600 g of bread flour
  • 1 packet of instant dry yeast
  • 18 g of salt
  • 440 g of warm water

In a large mixing bowl add the yeast to the warm water. Add the flour and mix with a heavy spoon until all the flour is moistened. Add the salt and mix for another minuet. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes you can turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook in your stand mixer and mix for 10 minutes. Avoid added too much additional flour, this is a wet dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and flip coating both sides with oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

After 2 hours your dough should look like this.

In the meantime you can prepare the pizza topping.

  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons per pan
  • 1 cup of shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese, about 8 ounces
  • 2 – 7.5 ounce jars of baby clams, juice drained and reserved. I used Bellino whole shelled baby clams
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano for each pizza
  • 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese for each pizza
  • 2-4 tablespoons of reserved clam juice per pizza
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Red pepper flakes to taste, optional

Mix the garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small bowl.

Turn out the pizza dough onto a floured surface and cut into two portions. Place one of the portions back in the bowl and cover while you prepare the first pizza.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread out two tablespoons of plain olive oil in each of the two pizza pans.

Take the first portion of pizza dough and spread it out with your hands to reach the edges. If it doesn’t stretch all the way, wait 5 minuets to let the dough rest and it will be easier to finish.

You can now do the same for the second pizza pan.

Brush the garlic and oil mixture over the dough of each pizza. Season with salt and black pepper. Scatter the mozzarella and clams over each pie. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the reserved clam liquid over each pie. Add the oregano and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Let pizza rest for about 15 minutes. Bake in the oven for 17- 20 minutes. When you remove the pizza from the oven squeeze about a quarter lemon over each pie. Cut and serve.

Nice crisp bottom!
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Chicken Vesuvio

There is absolutely nothing that comes as close to comfort food as chicken and potatoes. My mother would bake some form of chicken with potatoes at least two Sundays out of the month. Nothing was more welcomed than a pan of golden chicken with crispy potatoes and bits of caramelized onions, that my father and I would fight for, stuck to the bottom of the pan.

My mother had an unusual set up for her baking, she never used the oven in the main kitchen. We had a full kitchen in the basement and she would always use that oven, saying it kept the house cooler. Not sure why she would mind from November through March. But that was mom’s logic. You see, before I came into the world my grandparents, who lived on the second floor of our two family house, rented the back rooms of the main floor to other tenants. My mother and father and brother and sister lived in the front rooms of the main floor and the basement. So naturally we had a full bathroom and kitchen in the basement. It wasn’t till I arrived that my parents needed more room and my grandfather made the tenants move out and gave the entire main floor to us, basement included.

Just before dinner was ready my mother would pick one of us to go downstairs and get the roast. How we managed to carry that hot pan of food up a full flight of steps without only one disaster is a amazing. And of course that one time that my father tripped on the last landing spilling the beans was just that. I heard words I never heard before coming from my fathers mouth. It was epic.

There are many variations of chicken and potatoes. Chicken Vesuvio is said to have originated in Chicago around the 1940’s. It’s an Italian/American dish that most likely came from someone in the south of Italy. Naples would be a good guess being the the name of the infamous volcano is part of the recipe’s name. The ingredients are few, but the flavors just all come together in a simply wonderful chicken and potato meal. And it’s made in one pan.

Chicken Vesuvio

4 chicken drum sticks

4 chicken thighs ( you can include the breast, as long as it’s on the bone)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 -4 large cloves garlic, whole

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks. ( you can add as many potatoes as you need for the amount of servings you want).

1/2 medium onion, rough chop

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

3/4 cup dry white wine

Package or 10 oz of frozen peas or artichoke hearts, or both.

Salt and pepper to taste

Salt and pepper your chicken on both sides. Place a large fry or sauté pan on medium high heat, large enough to hold all the chicken. Add the olive oil and garlic. When oil is hot add the chicken pieces skin side down.

Brown for about 4-5 minutes then turn the chicken to brown the other side. Remove the chicken and garlic and place on a plate.

Add the potatoes and onions to the hot pan along with the thyme. Salt and pepper the potatoes. Cook till onions become translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Lower the heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook down about 1 minute. Push the potatoes and onions off to the side and add the chicken along with the garlic back to the pan, skin side up. Mix the potatoes all around the chicken.

Place in your 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or when the chicken is fully cooked. After 20 minutes add 1/2 cup of water if chicken is too dry, if you want more crisp potatoes don’t add any water.

The last 10 minutes add the peas/and or artichoke hearts to the pan and mix with everything else.

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Sourdough Starter – FEED ME!!!!

I have had a sourdough starter dormant in my refrigerator for over 10 years. It made the move with me from New York to Pennsylvania and today I thought I would try and revive it. I read that this culture is hard to kill. When it goes into a dormant state the culture settles on the bottom of the jar and forms a thick white sludge. A dark water like liquid forms on the top and it’s commonly called hooch. It’s actually a layer of alcohol formed by the culture that protects everything below it. Sort of a well balanced environment for the dormant culture. I took the jar out of the refrigerator and stirred up the hooch into the culture below. When done it was like the consistency of heavy cream. Everything above the hooch was nasty so I just poured the stirred mixture into a clean mason jar. I fed it a half a cup of flour, stirred it well, and will now wait to see what happens. Once it reaches room temperature, if it’s still alive, I should start to see bubbles forming and the culture start to grow. I’ll give it 24 hours and empty about a cup of the liquid down the drain, then add another cup of flour and filtered water.

It took three days to regenerate the culture. When I checked this morning it was a bubbly mass inside the jar and almost doubled in size. One more day of feeding and I should be ready to make a loaf. These little beasties are amazing. A living organism that can go 10 years without eating and still survive. They got my respect.

It’s time I start digging through all my recipes on making sourdough bread. The years of experimenting and baking are all down on paper. The wonderful thing about sour dough is the flavor. This is a natural yeast, not like the commercially grown yeast that rises quick. The slow rise process goes through a fermenting process and that is what adds the flavor to the bread. There are some cultures that are hundreds of years old. Some bakeries in Europe are using the same culture that they used during the time of Napoleon. They just keep feeding the pot of culture every time they take some. If I use a cup of active culture in my recipe I always add a cup of flour and cup of water to the pot, and keep it going. If I don’t bake for a while I’ll just put the active culture in the refrigerator and when I’m ready to use it just repeat the process.

Pane Cafone (Country man’s bread)

500 Gm (3 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour

235 ml (1 cup) water

235 ml (1 cup) active sourdough culture

2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap loosely and proof at least 5 hours at room temperature. 80 degrees is the ideal temp so I put the bowl in the oven with the oven light on and that holds the oven at a constant 80 degrees.

Once the dough doubles in size, I pull a corner of the ball and fold it over itself. I do this to the other three sides. I flip it over and place it on a piece of parchment paper on my cutting board, cover it with a towel, and return it to proof for another 3 hours. Before I put it in the oven I make a slash or two on the top.

Bake in a preheated oven on a baking stone at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour before you slice.

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Pasta all’Amatriciana

When you get a hold of guanciale from Italy you put it to good use. Guanciale is produced with whole pork cheeks. It is rubbed with salt, sugar , and spices and cured for three weeks. It has an earthy flavor that is stronger and richer than pancetta and its texture is more delicate and silky. When cooked, the fat melts away giving great depth of flavor to the dishes and sauces you use it in. This month I made authentic Pasta Carbonara with guanciale and now I would like to redo another pasta dish I previously posted, Pasta all’Amatriciana.

Once again this is a pasta dish with few ingredients, but it’s important to use the best possible quality ingredients. If you don’t have Italian specialty stores in your neighborhood the internet is a wonderful thing. There is nothing you can’t get online from around the world, for a price. For me, this was well worth it.

Please note, this recipe has NO onions, No garlic, and specifically calls for San Marzano tomatoes.

1 -2 ounces of Guanciale, cut into small dice.

1/2 cup white wine

1 – 28 ounce can of San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed by hand

1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 pound bucatini pasta, or other thick spaghetti product

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

Salt & black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil for the pasta.

In the meantime, in a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta, cook the guanciale over medium low heat until the guanciale is crisp and most of the fat is rendered. Put the crisp guanciale in a small dish for later and add the white wine and red pepper flakes to the pan with the rendered fat. Cook off the wine for about a minuet.

Add the crushed San Marzano Tomatoes to the pan and bring the heat to medium high. Stir well and bring to a simmer, uncovered. The sauce should only cook for about 10-15 minuets. After that cooking time, taste the sauce for salt and pepper. When the water comes to a boil add the pasta and stir. However long the pasta takes to cook, drain it two minutes earlier, it will finish cooking in the pan of sauce. Reserve one cup of pasta water if needed.

Add the drained pasta to the pan of sauce along with the reserved crisp guanciale and cook on medium heat while stirring for the additional time it takes to cook the pasta al dente.

Plate the pasta and add a generous amount of Pecorino Romano cheese. Enjoy! Simplicity at its finest.

One of three feral cats that come to visit was watching me the whole time through my patio door as I prepared this meal. They know when something good is cooking in my house.

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Authentic Pasta Carbonara

My Mother always made Pasta Carbonara when I was growing up in Brooklyn. But she made it her own way. Unlike the original way, she would include regular bacon, onions, garlic and butter. The rest of the ingredients were the same. I have my original post for Past Carbonara they way my mother made it here: https://cookingitaliancomfortfood.com/2010/05/27/pasta-carbonara/ Don’t get me wrong, I love this version, grew up eating it as one of my original comfort foods and make it till this day. But I thought I would show you the authentic way of preparing Pasta Carbonara. We don’t use cream or butter, no garlic or onions, and instead of hickory smoked American bacon we use guanciale. Pancetta is the alternate pork product to use, and easier to purchase than guanciale. Pancetta is from the pork belly like bacon, but is cured without smoke. Guanciale is like pancetta but does not come from the pork belly. Guanciale is from the pig’s jowls. The flavor is more intense and is the true ingredient for Pasta Carbonara. If you can’t find Guanciale at your grocer or Italian Specialty store, Pancetta works fine.

Pasta Carbonara is best eaten fresh, so make only enough for your current meal. It doesn’t do well as leftovers. This recipe is for serving 4 people, or 3 really hungry people. The best pasta to use is thick spaghetti, bucatini or linguini. The ingredients are few and simple, like many other great Italian dishes. The secret is to use the best ingredients available.

PASTA CARBONARA RECIPE

12 ounces of Thick Spaghetti, Bucatini or Linguini

4 ounces of Guanciale or pancetta cut into small dice or cubes

2 ounce of Pecorino Romano cheese grated

2 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt and plenty of Black Pepper

Cut the guanciale into strips and dice into small cubes.

Mix the two egg yolks in a small bowl with the grated cheese, pinch of salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Mix until creamy then set aside.

In a large frying pan over low heat, cook the guanciale. You want to render all the fat from the guanciale until crisp. Don’t burn it.

Once the guanciale is crisp and browned remove from the pan and set aside. Keep the rendered fat for later.

At this point you should have a pot of salted water on the boil. Add the pasta and cook till al dente. Take a cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta and set aside. Drain the pasta. With the heat on low, add the pasta to the fat from the meat along with the pieces of crispy guanciale and half your saved pasta water. Mix together well until some of the water is absorbed.

This is very important, remove the pan from the heat before you add the egg and cheese mixture. You don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs and pasta. Add a few tablespoons of the hot pasta water to the egg and cheese mixture while stirring to temper the eggs. Now add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta while constantly stirring quickly. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg. Add more pasta water as needed to give you more moisture , this water makes more of the sauce and give the dish a creamy finish. Keep stirring well until you get the desired creamy sauce.

Add some more black pepper and top with additional grated cheese. Serve immediately.

I have to say that I have had Pasta Carbonara prepared in every way possible, and except for my mother’s version, this by far is the best. The creaminess and cheesy sauce on the pasta combined with the crunchy outstanding pork flavor of the crispy guanciale puts this dish in a class of its own. It’s like nothing you ever had.

Posted in Pasta, Pork | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

One skillet Italian Sausage and Pepper with Rice

Fads

Fads, short lived popularity of objects or behavior that quickly fade away. Can you think of any you experienced as a child?  Thinking back  one  comes to mind,  and it involved my brother Richard. He would get obsessed with things. Back in the early 60’s the song Wipe Out was playing on the radio. My brother must have been in high school. I could remember him driving everyone in the house crazy while he played the drum solo of wipe out with his hands slapping at the dinner table, dining room table and any other flat surface he happened to be sitting near.  Glasses would shake, plates would rattle and my sister’s eyes would roll. She  would scream and tell my mother to make him stop. Of course, he only did it louder, until my father intervened. You didn’t want him to tell you a second time to stop. That year for Christmas, my mother bought my brother Richard a snare drum. Really. My sister played the piano, I dabbled on the keyboards, and my brother played the snare drum. The drum remained in the basement. Honestly, I think my brother sounded better playing Wipe Out with his hands on the kitchen table than with the snare drum.

In addition to drum sticks the snare drum came with a set of brushes so my brother was able to tone down the noise and produce a gentle shuffle sound from time to time, with and without the snare sound. Nothing ever came of my brother’s drumming interest. After Wipe Out, there wasn’t much left of his repertoire. He might have asked for a cymbal or hi-hat but my mother realize the mistake of getting him the snare drum and ignored him. Another passing fad. I do remember one year my brother got a set of bongos. That too passed.

Hula hoops were another fad, but more popular with the girls. I have to admit, they were much better at keeping their hips in motion and keeping that hoop up then the guys. And then one summer someone bought a spinning top. Like any other fad, it all started with one kid. Within days, everyone else on the block were trying to spin tops. What frustration! Point up, point down, over hand, under hand, we all tried different techniques to get that top to spin. Those that gave up came back the next day with a Duncan YoYo.

And who can forget Click Clacks? They consisted of two stone hard acrylic balls which hung on either end of a heavy string. The two balls would swing apart and together, making the loud clacking noise that gave the toy its name. Once in full swing they would hit each other in the up swing and down swing.  Until the swing lost its course and they clonked you in the head. I believe they finally were banned in the 80’s, going the way of the Lawn Darts. A much less deadly fad was the wooden paddle ball. At least the ball at the end of the rubber band was a soft pink ball. So a shot to the face didn’t leave any marks.

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This dish will not disappoint. Simple ingredients, bursting with flavor.  My son Joseph texted me this the other day and said I should try it. I trust my son. He knows good food. So I collected the ingredients and made it for a Saturday night supper. It was delicious. Easy to make, easy clean up because it’s made in one pot, and sticks to your ribs. This one is a keeper, add a side salad and your meal is complete.

Italian Sausage and Pepper with Rice

  • One Pound Italian Sweet Sausage, casing removed
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 /2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, rough chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, thin sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes, or to taste. Optional
  • 1 cup of extra long grain rice, like Carolina
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 – 80z can of low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 green onions, rough chop
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, rough chop
  • 3 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, rough chop

In a large skillet or sauce pot with a lid, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and salt and cook down for 3-5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, paprika and garlic, stirring and cook for another three minutes. Turn the heat to high and push the vegetables to one side of the pot to brown the sausage. Pick off little pieces of the sausage and place in the pot. Stir till the sausage is browned and the veggies start to caramelize.  Add the raw rice and red pepper flakes and cook while stirring for about two minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, for about a minute. Add the chicken broth and stir to incorporate all the flavors. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low and cover. Cook for about 18 minutes. Check and stir to make sure the rice is not burning. When the rice is cooked and all the moisture has evaporated, take off the heat and add the green onion, tomato and parsley. Stir well. Cover and let sit for about five minutes before serving.

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