I have decided to share with youthe recipes that did not make it into my first cookbook "My Calabria". I had tested and submitted too many recipes and at the end many had to be cut so the book didn't go over 400 pages. Here is the first recipe that I would like to share with you, Spaghetti with Fresh Artichokes. This is a simple recipe that I prepare during this time of the yearwhen you can find the small artichokes that are used in this dish. This sauce works well with long or short pasta and especially well with homemade pasta.Read More
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Now is the time of the year when anchovies show up at the fish market. And it's also the time when wild fennel grows in California. During May and June I pick the fronds and use them in various dishes (here is a recipe that I prepared last year using wild fennel), but my favorite is a pasta dish that combines wild fennel with fresh anchovies. The recipe didn't make it into my book, so I can give it to you!Read More
Here is one more recipe for you to use up all your zucchini. I created it back in the summer of 1983 for the first Zucchini Festival in Hayward, California. I knew that my pasta with zucchini and ricotta salata wouldn't be a good choice so I came up with a recipe made with pureed zucchini. It almost looks like a pesto sauce.
The recipe was so good that it won first place in the main dish category. Everybody loves this dish and it is especially popular with kids - they eat it not knowing that it is made with zucchini.
The puree is so lush that most people think it contains butter and cream. It has neither. My original recipe did include butter, as an attempt to appeal to Americans, but over the years I dropped it and the dish remains sufficiently rich. You can make it several hours ahead and it also freezes well.
It is an easy recipe to make; the sauce has only zucchini, onion, garlic, parsley, basil and a bouillon cube that gives it its very rich taste.
In the 80s it was very popular in Italy to throw a bouillon cube into everything--that's how I happened to put it in this sauce. I tried making the dish without it once and the taste just wasn't the same. I use the Knorr chicken bouillon cubes, butyou can use their vegetable flavor if you prefer .
Saute the onion and garlic until soft:
Add the zucchini, parsley, basil and crumbled bouillon cube:
Cook at low heat until it is very soft and smashes easily:
Then puree it in a blender until you have a smooth sauce:
Put the sauce in a skillet, add some cheese and add the drained pasta to the sauce. Toss the pasta until well coated.
Let me know what you think of it.
Pasta con crema di zucchine
(Pasta with zucchini and herb puree)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 pound zucchini, halved or quartered lengthwise, then sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 chicken bouillon cube (preferably Knorr brand), crushed
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for passing
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lb of Rigatoni, Penne or other type of short pasta
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese to taste
1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the zucchini, basil, parsley and the crumbled bouillon cubes.
2. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the zucchini are fully cooked and soft. If the zucchini seem dry, add a small amount of water to continue cooking until soft. It should look like a mush of zucchini. Taste for salt. If needed add salt to taste. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
3. When the zucchini are cooked, place the mixture in a blender and puree until you have a smooth sauce.
4. Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, add salt to taste, and cook the pasta until al dente.
5. While the pasta is cooking, place the sauce in a large sauté pan, and add the grated cheese. Mix well.
6. When the pasta is ready, drain, and add to the sauce, raising the heat and stirring until the pasta is well coated. Sprinkle with more cheese and serve at once.
Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.
Here is another recipe where you can put your zucchini to use. We made this pasta dish at the all-zucchini cooking class on Saturday.
You can prepare everything while the pasta cooks. The key ingredients are zucchini and a flurry of grated ricotta salata. I was lucky to have a nice ricotta affumicata that my parents brought back from Calabria, but either will work well with this dish. Even fresh ricotta will make this dish flavorful.
My aunt used to prepare this dish; the ricotta salata melts when it hits the pasta, and by adding a little hot water from the pasta pot, you can create an almost creamy sauce. Some people prefer to sauté the zucchini, but I think the fried zucchini have more flavor. And some would say peperoncini (hot peppers) are optional, but not in my house!
Slice the zucchini in 1/8 inch rounds:
Sprinkle them with a teaspoon of salt and toss. Fry the zucchini slices in batches until golden on both sides.
Leave a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan when you are done frying the zucchini slices and add the garlic, fried zucchini slices and chopped basil. Cook for few minutes to infuse the flavors.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pot with the zucchini. Toss well and add the ricotta salata. Add some pasta water to make a creamy sauce.
Pasta with Zucchini and Ricotta Salata
1-1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 or 2 small fresh green or red chilies, minced (optional)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup finely grated ricotta salata cheese, plus more for garnish
Put the sliced zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat.
Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a frying pan over moderately high heat until it sizzles when you insert the end of a wooden skewer or chopstick (about 365ºF). Add the zucchini in batches and fry, turning with a fork, until lightly colored in spots. Transfer them as they are done to a plate.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
Just before the pasta is done, finish the sauce. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil and reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the garlic and chilies and cook briefly just to soften them; do not let them burn. Add the basil and zucchini, toss gently, and cook briefly just to infuse the zucchini with the seasonings.
Set aside 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot. Add the zucchini and the cheese and toss well, adding reserved water as needed to moisten the pasta and make a creamy sauce. Serve immediately, topping each portion with a little more grated cheese.
Serves 4 to 6
Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.
This is the time of the year for wild fennel fronds. Thank goodness that my parents moved to Northern California. I don’t know what we would have done without our wild fennel!
The wild fennel that grows here in Northern California is the same variety, finocchietto selvatico, as the one that grows on the coastal areas of Southern Italy. I foraged for some yesterday while hiking on a trail with my husband.
Wild fennel grows in empty lots, meadows, roadsides--just about everywhere. During the spring the green fronds sprout from the old roots of the previous year. They then grow throughout the spring and summer into tall cane-like stems. By July the plant blooms with yellow "flowers", that are, in fact, immature seeds that some people use to make “fennel pollen”.
Wild fennel is not the same as the fennel that you buy at the farmers' market or at the produce store. In fact, wild fennel doesn’t resemble it in any way at all. The domesticated fennel has a large edible white bulb, which is wonderful raw in salads and cooked in many different ways. Its fronds have very little flavor. Wild fennel, however, does not produce a bulb. Its edible parts are the springtime fronds and the summertime seeds. It has a very distinctive flavor of sweet anise.
When foraging for wild fennel don’t collect from the roadside or other locations where the plants are exposed to car exhaust or dogs. Go in the back of a lot or in areas where people don’t walk their dogs. Also take only a few fronds from each plant. Don’t remove an entire plant. I'll let you know how to forage for the seeds later in the summer when I have some photos.
Many of you have eaten pasta con sarde, a dish from my husband's hometown of Palermo that requires wild fennel fronds. But Calabrians also eat the fronds. My grandmother would throw them in a delicious minestra made with various wild greens. And we use the seeds to flavor our cracked green olives, our cured black olives, and of course our homemade Calabrian sausage, both fresh and cured.
I had included a pasta recipe in my cookbook that required wild fennel but it was removed because I was told that nobody outside California has access to it. Is this true? Those of you who live elsewhere, please let me know if you have seen wild fennel. I would think that it would grow on any coastal areas with mild weather. If indeed it doesn’t grow where you live you can buy the seeds from Seeds from Italy and grow your own wild fennel. But whether you have foraged for wild fennel or grown it from seed, give this quick pasta dish a try. Don’t replace it with domesticated fennel fronds as they don’t taste the same.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the cleaned fronds for 10 minutes. Drain the fronds well, reserving the cooking liquid, and finely mince them as shown on the right side of the picture below.
Remove the sausage from its casing. Break the sausage into small clumps with a knife. I used my homemade fresh Calabrian sausage, but you can use any sweet or hot Italian sausage.
Brown the sausage with some olive oil.
Add the minced cooked wild fennel. Season with salt.
Cook the pasta in the reserved water that the fennel was cooked in. Drain and toss with the sauce.
Here is the finished dish. So simple--only three ingredients--and yet so good!
Pasta con Finocchietto Selvatico (Penne with wild fennel and sausage)
1/4 pound (115 grams) wild fennel fronds, leaves and slim, tender stems only
3/4 pound (350 grams) fresh sweet or hot Italian sausage or Fresh Homemade Fennel Sausage Calabrian Style
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
1 pound (450 grams) penne rigate or rigatoni
Wash the fronds well in hot water as they can harbor small insects. Bring 5 quarts (5 liters) of water to a boil in an 8-quart (8-liter) pot over high heat. Add the fronds and boil 10 minutes, then lift them out of the water and into a colander, reserving the water to cook the pasta. Drain the fronds well and finely mince. You should have 1/2 to 2/3 cup minced greens.
Remove the sausage from its casing. Break the sausage into small clumps with a table knife.
Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch (25-centimeter) skillet over moderately high heat. Add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink and begins to brown lightly. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, breaking up the clumps into smaller bits. Add the fennel greens and stir well to distribute them and coat them with the oil. Season with salt. Reduce the heat and keep warm.
Add 1/4 cup (35 grams) salt to the water in which you cooked the fennel. Return to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Set aside 1 cup (250 milliliters) of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the skillet with the sausage and fennel greens. Cook, stirring, over moderate heat for a minute or two to flavor the pasta, moistening it with some of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately.
Copyright 2006, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.