HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Pasta and Other Starches [CoTM Sept 2006 and Nov 2013]

September 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your reviews of pasta, risotto, and other starch recipes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Sardinian Bottarga Sauce

    It's a pasta sauce made with mullet bottarga (bottarga di muggine), which is dried mullet roe, along with butter, onions, chopped parsley, and a little grated lemon peel. I also added a little extra virgin olive oil. Bottarga has a mildly salty, sweet taste and I've been wanting to try it for a long time. About a month ago I bought an ounce of it, so this recipe was the perfect chance to try it! Marcella's recipe calls for slicing it paper thin with a peeler, and then chopping into fine, soft grains. I ended up using a Benriger mandoline also to make it a little easier. I used spaghettini as she recommended, and garnished it with parsley and shaved bottarga as she suggests in "Marcella Says" (another book). It was simple and delicious, though something I won't make often as the bottarga is expensive. It's another example of her technique with just a few key ingredients resulting in such flavor. Oh, and be sure to cook the onions down until "lightly colored" (it probably took me about 15 minutes) - the sweetness really went well with the whole dish.

    I'm not as adept with the camera as CarbLover, but here's a picture!

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

    10 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      Rubee, that's beautiful. Where did you buy the bottarga? Is the bottarga hard (like parmesian cheese?) or softer? Did you use the entire oz? I am still waiting for my library cookbook to come in so I don't know the proportions.

      1. re: beetlebug

        Hi Beetlebug! I bought it at Salumeria Italiana in the North End. It was about an ounce and a quarter. The recipe calls for an ounce for two people, and I used the whole piece. It was vacuum-packed in clear plastic, came as one piece, and was about 6 inches long. You have to peel the membrane off before you use it, and yes, it's a little softer than parmesan. The picture makes it look reddish, but it was actually a dark amber color.

        I guess most people think this is a review of past recipes, but I'm really hoping more people cook and report dishes they're cooking in September!

        1. re: Rubee

          Note that Sardiniana bottarga is somewhat different from the general Italian kind. It crumbles into grains rather than flakes / shavings and has a slightly different flavor.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I thought that the only mullet roe was Sardinian. There is another roe, but it's tuna. Could you please give me more info on the general Italian kind? Thanks.

          2. re: Rubee

            Don't know what you paid for it, but I've found a wide range of prices in NYC - $22 for about 4 oz (one lobe) at Di Palo's, which is sold at Dean & DeLuca for $125 - the EXACT same thing - Sardinian bottarga(gray mullet roe).

            1. re: MMRuth

              Wow, really? And not the tuna roe? I paid $15 for 1.35 ounces. Just another reason for me to get to NYC soon. Thanks.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Repying to Rubee - definitely not the tuna. BTW - I use a microplaner to grate it.

              2. re: Rubee

                Thanks Rubee. I'll have to check it out next time I am in the NE.

            2. re: Rubee

              Rubee, that looks and sounds fabulous! If it wasn't for your description, and the monthly cookbook idea, this isn't something I would have thought to try but now I'm really tempted, especially since I work close to DiPalo's.

              This is definitely a plus to people posting about something they made in the past (especially if it is a bit unusual) although I am looking forward to cooking 'with' folks.

              1. re: llinza

                Just FYI - you might want to call Di Palo's first - when I was there a week or two ago, they said that they might run out before the next batch (this year's harvest, due in at the end of September) comes in. Not that a trip to Di Palo's is ever wasted.

            3. peas, peppers & prosciutto – I make often w/o peppers – see prosciuto cream sauce recipe, which is similar
              amatriciana – yum
              tomato sauce w/ onion & butter. A classic – comforting and easy – I return to often.
              Pink shrimp sauce w/ cream. Yum, yum, yum. Guests ask for the recipe and serve to others for their birthday. (Must be the heavy cream!) I use her son’s version.
              Butter and parmesan. Pablum for grownups. Very comforting.
              Butter and sage sauce – great w/ frozen tortellini. Quick and easier than a TV dinner.
              cream and butter sauce (Alfredo) – good, indeed
              sausages and cream – not as disgusting as it sounds
              Bolognese meat sauce – a big deal ragu. I had high hopes and was disappointed. Maybe I just don’t like ground meat.

              55 Replies
              1. re: NYchowcook

                Bolognese--I've made the Bolognese sauce several times and was a bit disappointed as well. Now, I skip the step about simmering the meat in milk first before the tomatoes and wine are added. I think the purpose of the milk is to tenderize the meat but I find that it makes the meat too soft and mushy for my tastes. I prefer my Bolognese with a firmer, meatier texture so I skip the milk.

                1. re: mielimato

                  The point is to gently cook the meat in a less acidic liquid. I cannot recall Marcella's precise ragu, but I know I did a combination of her's and Lynne Rosseto Kaspar's more classic approach, which I've posted before and produces a better result -- tomato is only added at the very end. The milk first approach then does make a significant difference.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    I would never skip the milk, it is the essence of Bolognese cooking. I have been making this for ages and now have adapted it to make my own. I have posted that recipe on this board. Never got nushy meat?

                    1. re: faijay

                      I agree that a ragu without the milk is not Bolognese. The dairy is more important than the tomato, which is only a condiment in the building of the ragu.

                    2. re: Karl S

                      The milk does alter the consistency of the meat and makes it very soft, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. But I am still opened to trying different Bolognese recipes with milk. What are Kaspar's and your own variations on Marcella's recipe?

                      1. re: mielimato

                        Kaspar's is based on the "official" recipe of the city of Bologna, IIRC.

                        Marcella's is her own magisterial approach.

                        Mine is explained in the link:

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        I would suggest that the point is the tenderness of the meat so that one does not recognize that it is ground meat as such; the texture should be quite different than a ground-beef American chili con carne, as it were. This is a sauce for pasta: pasta is the star, the sauce is the supporting player. The meat in the sauce must have dissolved to a point where it glazes the pasta; it's not supposed to be like chili con carni e paste.

                    3. re: mielimato

                      I've been using Marcella's recipes for years and I should point out that the Bolognese sauce in Essentials of Italian Cooking is not the same one she first published in Classic Italian Cooking. I've tried both several times and the earlier version is far superior.

                    4. re: NYchowcook

                      I would love a paraphrased version of the butter and sage sauce, although there are many versions online I don't know what might make Marcella's stand out.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        4-5 tablespoons high-quality butter
                        6-8 whole fresh sage leaves
                        1 pound pasta (she recommends homemade pasta such as fettucini, stuffed tortelli, or potato gnocchi)

                        Heat butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Her tip for this recipe is that it's very important that the color becomes a deep gold (but not brown), for the sage to optimally flavor the sauce. Add sage, turning once for just a few seconds. Add sauce to drained pasta, toss, and serve with grated Parmesan.

                        1. re: Rubee

                          Thank you very much. For some reason I have been intimidated by the brown butter thing for too long! So simple, with sage from my garden. Served with purchased mushroom, goat cheese and squash ravioli. Did not realize the sage would break apart when tossed with the pasta. Delicious, although a small appetizer serving is probably best.

                      2. re: NYchowcook

                        The ragu recipe from the original "Classic" can't be beat.

                        The radically revised recipe in "Essentials" is weird. It has about five times as much carrot and onion and consequently comes out way too sweet.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I made the bolognese sauce from Essentials a long time ago and was disappointed as well. I remember it being too sweet and not as deeply meaty in flavor as I would have liked.

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            I, too, had been disappointed with the bolognese sauce in Essentials. I tried the one from Classic last night - it was excellent!!! I hadn't compared the recipes before. I will from now on. Thank you, all.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I find this interesting... could you paraphrase the original amount of carrots? The bolognese recipe in Essentials is one of my favorites, but I've noticed that the quality of each individual ingredient is crucial to how it turns out overall. That is, you can really taste the difference if you use better quality meat, milk, San Marzano canned tomatoes, etc. I've noticed the carrots a little more than I would like to the past couple of times I've made this recipe, so I find this post very enlightening!

                              1. re: redwood2bay

                                The original is two tablespoons each onion, carrot, and celery. That's similar to every other traditional ragu recipe I've seen.

                            1. re: NYchowcook

                              After tomato picking yesterday, I made the simple recipe for tomato sauce w/ onion and butter using the food mill method. The recipe was so easy, and the result was pure poetry! I'm so accustomed to oil-based tomato sauces that the silky sweetness imparted by the butter and stewed onion was a delightful change. I can see why people love this recipe so much...

                              I used 1 lb. of Barilla spaghetti and tore some basil to finish. Had Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano, but I prefer the latter. I did add cracked black pepper at the end to offset the sweetness. The sauce was light and subtle, almost bland at first. But the character really came through after a few bites, and husband described its subtlety as non-fatiguing. Nice opener to a main course (although we ate it as the main).

                              I'm hesitant to alter this recipe too much, but just curious if anyone has added a garlic clove or other seasonings to infuse the sauce?

                              I should have taken a few photos of the cooking process, but here's a photo of the final dish: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Garlic or other discernable seasonings would ruin the balance, in my opinion, and I love garlic. The most that should be done is to puree some of the onion with the sauce. If one absolutely needed to try a variation, one might consider adding a peeled shallot to the simmer and then removing.

                                I usually serve this as a soup, rather than as a sauce, btw.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Mmmmm...I could totally see this working as a soup. Thanks for that tip. I'm inclined to agree w/ you on the garlic, but I'm very curious and like to experiment w/ recipes. I think I'll throw in one small clove of garlic next time (and maybe a few basil leaves) and fish out before serving...

                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                    Instead of basil, try a couple of sprigs of fresh marjoram. Basil (especially a lot of American-grown basil) often has strong methol-ish overtones. I think this sauce is best treated as something quite different than the typical marinara-style (olive oil, garlic, et cet.) sauce base we Americans think of as the generic foundation for tomato-based sauces. After all, how many mini-variations on tomatoes, garlic and basil do we need for sauce? It just seems odd to try to take this unique sauce and transform it back into something more familiar. It has a lot more fat, and it has dairy and fruit (both onion and tomato) sugars, et cet. For true experimentation, I think it would be better complemented by subtler companions, like shallot or even leek instead of garlic, and more subtle fresh herbs (marjoram, savory, e.g.) than basil; I'd even probably try sage (again fresh) before basil, experimenting with adding early vs late to see which produces a better result. The herbal presence should be in the background, not the foreground, and serve to counterpoint the main harmony.

                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                      Your points are well taken, Karl. I agree that I shouldn't morph this unique sauce into something it wasn't meant to be; however, I continue to be curious about the flavor of gently infused garlic (one whole clove, not cut cloves that have been sauteed and remain in the final product). Marjoram is a better idea than basil...

                                      While I enjoyed the sauce as is, recipes such as this inspire me to build upon this method to honor it, not to reject it.

                                  2. re: Carb Lover

                                    Tomato sauce w/onion and butter.
                                    I wanted to try this very simple sauce and see for myself if something with such few ingredients and such a simple cooking method really could be as good as Carb Lover and others have said. You were all right! I wasn't able to use all fresh tomatoes, so I used a combo of canned Italian plums and a few fresh plum tomatoes from my garden. I don't have a food mill, so I quickly whirled them in the food processor and put them in the saute pan. Added the butter (only about 4 T.), the onion cut in half, a pinch of salt, and a very small pinch of sugar, since I thought the canned tomatoes were a bit more asidic than I'd like. Simmered uncovered for 45 min. Tossed angle hair pasta with sauce, grated pecorino,( which I prefer over Reggiano,) 1 more T. of butter,fresh ground pepper and garnished with shaved pecorino. Simply devine. Deep, wonderful flavor and something that can be made with everything I have on hand in my pantry. I'm anxious to pass this simple, deligthful sauce recipe on to my daughters since it's certainly easy enough for them to add to their menus.

                                    1. re: jackie de

                                      Thanks for reporting back; I'm glad that you liked it.

                                      I've been wanting to make the spinach and ricotta gnocchi as well as crespelle w/ spinach and prosciutto, but spinach isn't so hot right now. For those who have made those recipes, what other green might be suitable? Maybe mache? I have no idea...I could just wait til this spinach thing blows over and I can get my hands on some.

                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        I tried making gnocchi once at home, using (I think) the Marcella recipe. I have the feeling I may have used a melange of different recipes, and I'll openly admit, that may have been my problem. Regardless, I would have to say that my gnocchi were spectacularly average (at best). I now understand why it's so remarkable when gnocchi are as light as a cloud. This isn't really a comment on a Marcella recipe (apologies), but more a bit of a warning that I think gnocchi are really difficult to do well.

                                        1. re: Smokey

                                          I'm planning a long, long report on my potato gnocchi. I have to cook up the remainder of my batch which will be my third attempt at getting this right. Third time is a charm, right? I now also see why good gnocchi is so highly rated.

                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                            Oooh, I look forward to your report! Maybe I'll try that recipe since it doesn't have spinach. The place where I work makes great, feather light gnocchi and it does NOT include egg. I'll be curious to hear about your path to gnocchi enlightenment.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Lack of egg is the key to light gnocchi.

                                        2. re: Carb Lover

                                          That recipe for spinach and ricotta gnocchi is one of the
                                          few places where frozen spinach gives an identical result.
                                          Thawed frozen may actually be better; I'm guessing it's because
                                          of the consistent moisture content. The freshness of the
                                          ricotta is much more important to the silkiness and lightness
                                          of the final result.
                                          in the

                                          1. re: condiment

                                            Spinach (swiss chard) and Ricotta Gnocchi

                                            I've made these a few times over the years, but this was the first time I used swiss chard in place of the spinach. We thought they were just as good as the spinach version. Here's a picture before they were cooked. Served them with her tomato cream sauce. Lovely!

                                             
                                        3. re: jackie de

                                          Garden tomato version - I made this again in late November, starting with 4 C. quartered garden tomatoes gifted from a friend. These tennis-ball sized tomatoes were not ripe when picked from her vines before frost arrived, and carefully ripened (turned daily) on her kitchen countertop. Because they were impossible to peel without creating mush, I first microwaved the lightly-salted quartered tomatoes for 10 minutes, covered, on a plate. The skins then lifted off easily and I put the rest, including seeds and gel, in a saucepan with the 5 T butter and cut onion to simmer 45 minutes.

                                          The result was a flavorful concentrated sauce. I served it over Garden Delights rotini pasta, as a side for roasted chicken and cubed butternut squash.

                                          If starting with fresh late-season tomatoes, consider using the pre-cooking (by microwaving 10 minutes) technique to improve flavor results.

                                        4. re: Carb Lover

                                          Nov 2013 report - Tomato, butter and onion sauce

                                          In a word - delicious.
                                          As well it should be with 5 T. butter!

                                          I used the online recipe http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/101517...

                                          I used canned diced Red Gold tomatoes, unsalted butter, a single pinch of salt, and one onion halved. I simmered 55 minutes since the onion still looked uncooked af 45 min. I used a potato masher to break up the larger chunks of tomato before the last 10 minutes of simmering.

                                          What do you do with the onion halves after removing them from the sauce? Discard? Use in another dish? I plan to include it in some beef stew.

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                            I made the tomato-onion-butter sauce tonight as well - so incredibly delicious. I served it on cavatappi and it was one of the best pasta meals I've had in years. I plan to save the onion and maybe take out the innards, mix with sausage and stuff the outer layers with the mixture, then roast.

                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                              I'm pretty sure it's Karl S who serves it as a soup with a cheese souffle for dinner parties :)

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Yes, I have so served. At least for luncheons.

                                              2. re: biondanonima

                                                Found this recipe in the Times magazine yesterday and immediately wanted to make it. Had other dinner plans, but this will be made soon. Now if only the person holding onto the copy of Essentials would return it to the library ...

                                              3. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                Tomato, Butter, and Onion Sauce; On-Line Recipe
                                                http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/101517...

                                                Like Midwesterner, we used canned diced tomatoes, in our case the Pomi brand; 5 T unsalted butter; 1 onion halved; and 1/4 t salt. The sauce simmered for 45 minutes per the instructions. We served it with Rigatoni.

                                                I really don't have too much to add except to say G didn't like it at all. He still prefers "our sauce" to all others. This one was too bland for him. I was glad we tried it though. It's a very serviceable sauce with a pleasantly rich tomato flavor.

                                                As I type this I'm remembering the De Cecco rigatoni took forever to get to the al dente stage for some reason, so perhaps the sauce did simmer for more a little more than the 45 minutes I stated above. No matter, though, I liked it well enough but it probably won't be made too often. As the simmering sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls is I see it in the future.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  I'm going to add my review of the Tomato, Butter and Onion sauce here because I'm afraid much like Mr. G we were not enamored of this sauce. There were things I liked about it - it smelled nice. It wasn't a bad sauce, but all I could think of was canned cream of tomato soup from the 70s. Lulu said it was so boring that she had to keep adding cheese, and then left it uneaten. Husband (who pretty much *always* goes for seconds on pasta) finished it without a word about the food (both of them are usually good about thanking me and saying how they liked dinner). I probably liked it more than they did, but I still wasn't a fan. Just kind of ok. This may have something to do with preferring olive oil, or sauces without tomato or ... I dunno. It was easy, just not to our tastes. (hovering with hands over head to avoid things being thrown at me)

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONIOIN AND BUTTER – p. 152

                                                    This sauce gets a lot of love from Ms Hazan’s fans and I have to admit, I’d never made it before. That said, I had some freshly made gnudi and this sauce came to mind so I thought I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, like LlM I can’t count mr bc and I among those who rave about this. We both found it very bland when it was finished simmering. So much so I decided to puree the onion right into it. That served to thicken the sauce a bit more but really just heightened the onion flavour. It may have been the colour of the sauce that threw me off…I totally agree that it looked like canned cream of tomato soup and it seemed to taste similar too. It was ok but we won’t be rushing to make it again.

                                                     
                                                     
                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                    I've never made this sauce, but my educated guess would be that rigatoni wouldn't make it shine. I'd serve it on gnocchi or tagliatelle or ravioli di ricotta -- something delicate. Rigatoni are too big and heavy (as you discovered cooking them) for what is clearly a delicate sauce. I've never used Pomì, but they must have been more flavorful than most fresh. You don't mention cheese, but I would guess this sauce could take quite a bit of parmigiano-reggiano, which would take care of the blandness complaint.

                                                    1. re: mbfant

                                                      Thank you very much for your expert input and suggestions for this enigma of a sauce MBFant. I appreciate it and am grateful for it. I don't remember why we chose rigatoni as the pasta but I was probably concentrating on the sauce and not the macaroni. I suppose it's only fair that we remake the recipe using your recommendations. Our usual freshly grated cheese is pecorino romano so that could have been the cheese we used. For the remake we'll use parmigiano-reggiano.

                                                      As for Pomi, it's billed as an authentic Italian passata using only garden fresh tomatoes. Nothing else is added. To my palate it tastes freshly picked. Another plus is that it's packaged in a tetra-pak.

                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                      Gio, by "our sauce" you mean tomato/garlic/basil/salt, yes? I can't stop using just those ingredients for mine -- will be looking today for the last tomatoes of the summer at a couple groceries to make some more for my freezer.
                                                      I tried the butter onion recipe a few years ago and couldn't figure out why the excitement..

                                                      1. re: blue room

                                                        Yes Blue Room... the ingredients you listed plus about 1/3 of a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes make our sauce. We've been using fresh garden tomatoes all Summer too but now we'll change to Pomi.

                                                    3. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                      This recipe goes by the unassuming name of "Tomato Sauce III" in my Classic Italian Cookbook. And since it was the forerunner to the revised version in Essentials, it calls for 1/4 pound of butter (and a pinch of sugar). I debated for a moment but ultimately threw caution to the wind and put the entire stick into the pan with the tomatoes and onion. The result was a super-velvety, creamy sauce with just those small bits of mashed tomatoes, and the subtle sweetness of onion. I didn't add the sugar but wouldn't have been opposed to it had the tomatoes tasted too acidic, but (all!) the butter mellowed them beautifully.

                                                      It was delicious over plain boxed pasta, but I can see where it would be excellent for gnocchi (as Marcella suggests in the notes) as its richness could easily compliment a more substantial dish, pasta or otherwise. And, Karl S, what a great idea to serve it as a soup! It has the perfect consistency for it.

                                                      1. re: lesliej

                                                        I was just reading through these reviews as I plan to make this sauce tonight to serve atop some left over (frozen) gnudi. I was interested to read about this version of the recipe because I recently read an article in Saveur by Marcella's son Giuliano. The version you cite above is the one he refer's to as the family favourite. Here's a link for anyone interested:

                                                        http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                                        1. re: lesliej

                                                          Made this today using the recipe from "Classic" (proportioning everything to my 13 oz. tetra pack of tomatoes). Put us in the like it camp. Served it over fresh ricotta cavatielli, that had been made with a very good local milk, and the combination sent us into the the love it camp.

                                                          1. re: qianning

                                                            Fresh ricotta cavatielli with this sauce sounds absolutely delicious.

                                                        2. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                          Tomato, Butter and Onion Sauce

                                                          I have posted about this sauce on CH many times, but for some reason have never posted a review here. Put me in the category of those who love it. I have made it many times, probably more than any other sauce in my repertoire. One of my favorite things about it is the ease of preparation -- basically no chopping, no stirring. I always make it with a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and usually cut the butter back to 4 tbsp. IMO this sauce takes at least 45 minutes and sometimes a bit longer for the onion to soften adequately and the flavors to come together. If it feels a little flat at 45 min, more salt is often the answer. I usually prefer to serve it with spaghetti (but since my little ones can't handle long noodles, I now substitute fusilli, which works reasonably well). My other favorite use for this sauce is to accompany ravioli (the big ones with herbed ricotta filling, freshly made from a good Italian deli). I can imagine that cavatelli or gnocchi would work very well also. And of course don't forget the parmigiano reggiano at serving time.

                                                          I also like the tomato/garlic/basil sauce that blue room describes (the one from My Calabria is my favorite), and I usually make this version in summer or when I need a quick sauce.

                                                          But Marcella's sauce is my go-to. It freezes/thaws well so when I make it, I often do a double batch with two boxes of pomi and one stick of butter. I don't double the onion.

                                                        3. re: Carb Lover

                                                          It is as good as everyone says! This will be my new go to tomato sauce.
                                                          I made this sauce on Halloween night (cheated by a day). It is hard to believe that so much flavor can come from such a simple sauce. I resisted the urge to toss in a squished garlic clove and I'm glad I did.
                                                          I did have some meatballs that I'd made a few months ago in the freezer. I baked them and tossed them on the top, this made the fam very happy.

                                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                                            Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (Essentials, p. 152)

                                                            As many time as I've read about how great this sauce is, I had never made it. I have a butter-based tomato sauce requiring slightly more work in my repertoire that I've used for years as an alternative to my usual simple, OO-based marinara. Last night as I was trying to come up w/a quick dinner, I thought I'd finally give this a one a go.

                                                            And I'll nod in agreement: simple and delicious.

                                                            I used good canned tomatoes. I do wish I'd doubled the recipe as 2 cups made a very small amount of sauce (and would never sauce MH's suggested 1 lb-1½ lbs pasta in this house). It would have been nice to have some leftover to stick in the freezer for an even quicker meal on another night.

                                                            We ate this over penne rigate, with freshly grated parmigiano, and some grilled Italian sausage and balsamic-glazed brussels sprouts on the side--very satisfying meal.

                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                              My (Italian) grandmother always wants more "gravy."

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                I've got used to the Italian-style saucing now. Makes for a much lighter dish too. I also noticed that in restaurants, couples often shared a pasta course so we started doing that too, so we could have a secondo.

                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                  It makes no sense that Grandma wants more "gravy" - and yet, every single time. You can count on that, and on the fact that she will insist on being moved to a different table from the one she is initially sat at in a restaurant. Love her to pieces, so predictable.

                                                                  I totally get sharing the pasta if you want a secondo (or getting a half portion).

                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                    We do the half portion everywhere! So many places will do this even it it isn't listed on the menu. Especially if they saddle themselves with Primi and Secondi sections of a menu.

                                                                    If there is a large group and we want to try different pastas we have even ordered three different full size and many places will plate them for you as a "sampler" instead of the crass plate passing.

                                                                  2. re: greedygirl

                                                                    Well, I use less sauce than I used to but still find I need more than I'd get if I used MH's proportions--especially when using boxed pasta like penne rigate (which seems kind of heavy to me--an ethereal hand-made pasta is another story).

                                                                    I can also easily share a pasta portion, love the places that offer "half sizes."

                                                          2. Polenta by the “no-stirring” method (requires some stirring). Turns out fine.

                                                            1. I have lots of favorite Marcella recipes (most from Marcella Cucina), but tonight I made a new sauce from Essentials: Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables, Variation with Marjoram and Two Cheeses.

                                                              The unusual thing about this recipe is that you simmer the tomato, celery, carrot and onion together for 30 minutes with no oil or butter (it doesn't seem like a good idea, but Marcella is never wrong!). Then you add lots of oil and continue to cook for 15 minutes. I was pressed for time, so total cooking time was only about 35 minutes. I think the flavors would've mingled better if I'd had longer. But the cheese and marjoram version is definitely promising. Very savory and filling--nice for chilly early fall.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: natasha

                                                                i make this recipe a lot. its excellent, i usually follow the guidelines and the sauce is fresh, vibrant. adding great olive oil after 35 minutes is the key here.

                                                              2. Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil: I make it all the time when basil is in season. Not sauteeing the garlic gives it a haunting depth.

                                                                Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Oil, and Chili Pepper: This is such a great recipe. My father-in-law, a sworn cauliflower hater, gobbled it up without realizing what he was eating. When I sent the recipe to his wife, who shares his e-mail account, I titled it "Pasta with Ingredient" so he wouldn't catch on, and now that's what we all call this dish. If you cut the thick main stem out of the cauliflower before tossing it into the pan in step #5, you only have to parboil the cauliflower for ten minutes or so, and it'll still cover a pound of pasta.

                                                                No-stir polenta: yes indeedy.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: heidipie

                                                                  I made the tomato sauce w/ garlic and basil (p. 156) tonight, and it was great! I really like all of her simple variations on tomato sauce. Her sauces so far have really proven that less is more...

                                                                  Scene: Husband comes home starving at 7pm. We almost decide to go out, but 25 lbs. of tomatoes are staring at us. Husband is inspired to try another Marcella sauce, and by 10 til 8 we are sitting at the table w/ fork and glass of chianti in hand.

                                                                  Here's a link to Marcella's recipe online:
                                                                  http://www.of2minds.org/spice/archive...
                                                                  It looks like the exact recipe except it omits the option of processing your own fresh tomatoes through a food mill after simmering for 10 min., which is what we did.

                                                                  Here we are running the tomatoes through the mill:
                                                                  http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                                                  Here's the sauce simmering after we add the 5 cloves of finely chopped garlic and seasonings:
                                                                  http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                                                  I would have ideally used spaghetti, but I'm trying to use up odds and ends in my pantry so opted for chiocciole, a cute snail-shaped pasta. Please forgive me, Marcella.

                                                                  Photo of finished product in pot here:
                                                                  http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                                                  Photo of my serving:
                                                                  http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                                                                  Overall, this sauce was simply delicious. Can't go wrong if you have fresh ripe tomatoes. The garlic did really mellow in flavor, but there was no doubt that it was there. I only used one third bunch of basil since my bunch was pretty big w/ large leaves.

                                                                  Conclusion: Husband was full and happy, and now we have 22 lbs. of tomatoes staring at us.

                                                                  1. re: heidipie

                                                                    Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil:

                                                                    It takes guts to make a sauce this simple, but it's so good. It's really easy to throw together quickly on a weeknight.

                                                                    The only caveat with this is the ingredients have to be at their peak (as Marcella reminds you over and over again throughout the book). Here in Canada in November, the farmers' markets are done and the basil at the supermarket has not been perfectly fresh, and the recipe suffers a little for it.

                                                                  2. Tomato Sauce with Anchovies, Garlic and Olives (Puttanesca or Arrabiatta?)

                                                                    This has saved my life on several occasions. So simple, quick and delicious. Gives a basic tomato sauce great depth and flavor. Great recipe because it requires no fresh ingredients so if you ever find yourself late at night with an empty fridge, you know what to do.

                                                                    Skip the step about melting down the anchovies in a hot water bath. Just mash it with a wooden spoon against the pan at low heat.

                                                                    Other easy variations:
                                                                    1) Replace the Olives with Canned Tuna or Sardines
                                                                    2) Omit the Olives Completely and the dish is still good
                                                                    3) Replace Anchovies with Fish Sauce?
                                                                    4) Add fresh shrimp

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mielimato

                                                                      I also want to throw in a can of olive-oil tuna--great way to beef it up!

                                                                      1. re: MuppetGrrl

                                                                        Hazan's tuna sauce ("spaghetti al tonno" in Classic) has been one of my standard dishes for years, but I usually add hot pepper and either a can of anchovies with their olive oil, or a couple of tablespoons of nam pla. Works better with penne than spaghetti.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          I haven't seen that recipe, but is it al tonno in the way that it's blended (like veal al tonno?)? I love that sauce, as well (never tried Marcella's) but I generally enjoy just the chunks of tuna meat in the sauce, as well, especially in a puttanesca.

                                                                          1. re: MuppetGrrl

                                                                            No, though she also has a recipe for vitello tonnato.

                                                                            It's a tomato and tuna sauce. In Classic the recipe is spaghetti al tonno (not listed under tuna in the index, one of numerous errors), in Essentials it's tuna sauce.

                                                                            1. re: MuppetGrrl

                                                                              I'll definitely have to try it. I love tuna.

                                                                        2. re: mielimato

                                                                          Arrabiata requires red pepper, so it'd be more of a puttanesca.

                                                                        3. I have made the eggplant sauce with tomatoes and red chili pepper to rave reviews. 'Tis the season for eggplants, looks like that's what we're having tonight!

                                                                          1. I don't have the book in front of me (sorry), so I'm going to get the titles wrong (actually, titles will be nonexistent).

                                                                            But I've made (many times) the recipe for spinach/ricotta/prosciutto wrapped in sheets of pasta, the rolls wrapped in cheescloth and boiled. The, cheesecloth is removed, 'logs' sliced and covered with a mix of the tomato/onion/butter sauce (oh my god, is that good. ultimate comfort food, so simple and so good) and bechamel.

                                                                            This is a long-standing family favorite. It is wonderful. I wonder if I have time to make it this weekend.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Smokey

                                                                              I wrote somewhere that one of the reasons Mrs Hambone is no longer Miss Coldpizza is my introducing her to that rolled stuffed pasta a dozen years ago (or more.)

                                                                              I won her... heart.

                                                                              1. re: hambone

                                                                                I love this Rotolo de Spinaci!!!

                                                                                I have made it for friends for dinner, for a catered dinner party as part of the spread for 50 (served sauce on the side to pool on small plates with the roll slice on top).... and am definitely pulling this one out to cook again this month. Just need to plan a small dinner party to serve it to, and pull out the pasta cranker:)!

                                                                            2. I made the lasagna (sans green pasta) twice, and the first time it set beautifully; the second time, no setting. Any advice on setting lasagna? The primary difference, ingredient-wise, was that I added two spicy italian sausages to the bolognese, which I think may have resulted in more oil in the sauce.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: MuppetGrrl

                                                                                I've made the Baked Green Lasagne recipe with homemade spinach noodles nearly a dozen times and never had the problem you describe. I follow the recipe pretty much to a tee, so perhaps it does have something to do with the added sausages. Or, is it possible you didn't let it rest for the full 10 minutes before cutting into it?

                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                  I definitely let it rest. I think it was probably the extra oil from the sausages.

                                                                                  No worry to anyone but me, though; it was delicious! Just a little slippery. :)

                                                                              2. Tonight I’m Making ...

                                                                                A Pasta recipe from the Essentials volume

                                                                                Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta Sauce.

                                                                                1. Since we’re also discussing past recipes we’ve tried, I thought I’d re-post this since it’s based on a recipe from “Essentials” and included a pic.

                                                                                  White Clam Sauce

                                                                                  In my version, I started with step #4, but skipped the tomatoes and added shallots (and my parsley was wilted so couldn’t use it). Then I added the littlenecks (scrubbed well so there was no grit), let it simmer, covered, until the clams opened. Finished up with Hazan's technique of setting the clams aside, adding the slightly underdone pasta to the sauce to complete cooking and soak up all the juices, and then tossing it with the clams and fresh basil. I think I may have added a little buter, and garnished with lemon zest. Delicious! I was impressed by how easy it really was. Besides the fresh clams, the important step was, as Marcella says, to let the pasta finish cooking in the broth so that it “drinks up all the fresh clam juice”. It ended up being full of flavor and perfectly al dente.

                                                                                  Pic:

                                                                                  http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                    Excellent post Rubee. That looks and sounds delicious!

                                                                                      1. re: kitchensalli

                                                                                        Except obviously I'm spending WAYYY too much time on these new cooking threads, and getting no work done. But thanks!

                                                                                      2. re: Rubee

                                                                                        I forgot about this one! Thanks for reminding me! It is one of my favorite pasta dishes from Essentials. I agree that letting the pasta "drink" the sauce is key. First time I made it, I was out of basil and parsley so I put a tiny bit of rosemary at the end and absolutely loved the combination.

                                                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                                                          Rubee, Clam Sauce as you describe is one of my favorite things to make (I also skip the tomatoes... ) Your pic makes me want to make it again SOON!! :)

                                                                                          --Dommy!

                                                                                        2. The Onion Sauce.

                                                                                          Stew the onion (lots of it) in butter and oil and salt for a long time; then uncover and caramalize it. Add parsley. Toss with pasta. So simple, and so delicious.

                                                                                          I've never made it with the preferred lard - anyone try that?

                                                                                          1. http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y75/...

                                                                                            Last night's Porcini Risotto form Essentials. Came out beautifuly and had a very rich lush taste.

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Candy

                                                                                              Nice! I like the cookbook in the backdrop of your photo...I may have to borrow that when I post my photos. Am still trying to decide on a Marcella menu. From the photo, it does not look like a loose, saucy risotto, right?

                                                                                              Assume you used dried porcini? I know we live in different parts of the country, but where did you get them from? I'm sure I can find them somewhere in the SF Bay Area, but I never really know where...

                                                                                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                                                It was made with dried porcini and was actually quite saucy, the bowls made it look less so. The rice was perfect with that tender but firm core. I put it in the cereal bowls because my DH needed to have some meat along side. I was happy witht just the risotto and some fresh tomatoes.

                                                                                                When I can I like putting the photo of the book in the picture. Did you see my Bouchon rabbit terrine picture? On that one it was kind of dificult to to get it all in.

                                                                                                I live in Bloomington, IN and my local chain Marsh had the dried porcini. Marcella says that dried porcini are available in large bags in Europe, not the little outrageously priced 1/3 oz. bags I can get here. I'll be in London in a month and may look into seeing what I can get there and how the price compares.

                                                                                                You might try Cost Plus World Market. You never know what is going to turn up there. How about Petrinis?

                                                                                                1. re: Candy

                                                                                                  Petrini's is long gone. A great loss.

                                                                                                2. re: Carb Lover

                                                                                                  In the SF area, you can find dried porcini at most grocery stores or any Italian deli. I buy them in the bulk section of the Berkeley Bowl as the quality and turnover are high and the prices relatively low.

                                                                                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                                                    Rainbow Grocery in SF is a good place to get them, and they are often on special too.

                                                                                                  2. re: Candy

                                                                                                    I love this recipe too! For me, mushroom risotto is the best. The deep earthy flavor of porcini with cheese and rice is a great combo. Yum!

                                                                                                  3. Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta Sauce

                                                                                                    Disappointing. I followed everything exactly as laid out but my results were less than I had hoped. The sauce was very dry and bland. The bacon I chose may have been too lean so the rendered fat was a missing key component. Perhaps that would have made it ‘saucier’. I’ll revamp the leftovers tonight (there are lots) with a splash of wine and some fresh herbs to accompany a grilled chicken breast.

                                                                                                    Would be interested in hearing if anyone else has made this in the past and their take on it.

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: kitchensalli

                                                                                                      I've made that. It's good if you have tasty fresh ricotta (not Polly-O) and good fresh peas (currently out of season).

                                                                                                      What kind of bacon doesn't throw off at least two tablespoons of fat?

                                                                                                      http://www.wchstv.com/gmarecipes/peas...

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                        I've made the peas/ricotta/bacon sauce also and find it delicious. Hmm, I used a good quality bacon-if you used some kind of lean bacon (I didn't even know this existed!), I can see how it wouldn't be very good. Also, did you use a good quality ricotta? I get a great fresh ricotta from an Italian deli (they scoop to order), and Whole Foods carries a very good one they call spreadable ricotta. The regular grocery store ricottas are usually awful, so if you used that I can see again how the recipe may have failed.

                                                                                                        I'm surprised no one has mentioned the tomato-butter-onion sauce! Absolutely delicious.

                                                                                                        I also like her carbonara better than anyone else's.

                                                                                                        1. re: christy319

                                                                                                          Okay – clearly getting the ricotta from the ‘grocery store’ was not the way to go. A better quality cheese would have likely made the difference in the texture of the sauce that I was looking for. Flavor was still good however.

                                                                                                          1. re: kitchensalli

                                                                                                            We enjoy this recipe - I think that good flavorful, smoky bacon (not sickly sweet supermarket brand), lots of freshly grated pepper and parmesan are key to a good result. You may also want to stir in some of the pasta water if your result is too dry (and use the whole milk ricotta, too, not skim) We use the frozen tiny peas and thaw them in the pan with the bacon. a little chopped onion in there is a valid addition.

                                                                                                    2. Why not make your own riootta?

                                                                                                      Take a 1/2 gallon of milk (your choice, whole, 2%, goat, ...).
                                                                                                      Place in a stainless steel pot. Heat gently to just before a boil (abou 185F). Stir in either 1 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons lemon juice. This will clabber the milk. Stir gently and take off heat. You should notice that clots have formed. If not, then heat carefully. Don't get it to a boil. When you notice the clotting, take off heat. Stir gently. and wait 10 minutes.

                                                                                                      Pour or ladle through a sieve lined with clean cheescloth mounted on top of another pot or bowl. This whey can be used in other dishes (I have even made more ricotta from it).

                                                                                                      The residue in the cheesecloth is a tasty ricotta. Allow to drain until it reaches the moisture level you want.

                                                                                                      You can add salt if you want to the milk if you want.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Food Tyrant

                                                                                                        This sounds more like a fresh farmers cheese, which I'm sure is delicious, but ricotta seems a bit more luscious. Anyone know the difference?

                                                                                                        1. re: rabaja

                                                                                                          Traditionally, ricotta is made from whey.

                                                                                                          Whole-milk ricotta is a kind of farmers cheese.

                                                                                                      2. I had a hankering for gnocchi last night--not homemade; I don't have time for that on a weeknight!--but I couldn't decide what to do for the sauce. In the spirit of the cookbook challenge, I decided to go with Marcella's recommendation of Tomato Sauce III.

                                                                                                        Seriously, truly, some of the best tomato sauce I've ever had/made, and utterly easy. 2 cups pureed canned tomatoes; 1/4 lb butter; 1/4 tsp sugar; 1 1/2 tsp salt; one onion, halved and peeled. Mix it all together, put the onion in, slow simmer for 45 minutes. Discard the onion. It was velvety, tomato-y, and just sweet-savory enough. Absolutely dreamy, and ridiculously simple.

                                                                                                        Has anyone tried to double it? My only issue is that it was in very small protions--just enough for two, and I generally like leftovers. I'm not sure if, when I double the amount of tomatoes, that I should use two onions, too. Doubling on sauces like this always stumps me.

                                                                                                        1. Smothered Onion Sauce (p. 168 in "Essentials")

                                                                                                          This recipe for a pasta sauce calls for cooking down about 6 cups of sliced onions in butter or lard (I used lard), covered, for an hour, and then browned with a little white wine. Tossed with chopped parsley, fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano, and spaghetti, this is another simple but flavorful sauce. I thought it would be similar to a pasta with caramelized onions, but it wasn't. The slow cooking breaks it down so it's almost stewed, and then you take the cover off to allow the liquid to completely evaporate and the onions to become a nice dark gold. I did add about 1/2 tb butter to the pasta when I added the onion sauce. I also made the whole recipe with 1 lb of pasta for the two of us, but plan on using the leftover spaghetti for Marcella's "Frittata with Pasta" (p.285) later this week.

                                                                                                          Before pic:

                                                                                                          http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                          After:

                                                                                                          http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                          End result:

                                                                                                          http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                                                            I've skipped over this recipe many time because it looked too simple to be good. But your photos and description have convinced me!

                                                                                                            I've found that some of Marcella's recipes need to be tweaked for additional flavor (e.g. the addition of parsley or truffles in her meat roll recipe). Would you have added anything to this dish? An extra herb or chopped proscuitto?

                                                                                                            1. re: mielimato

                                                                                                              I love fresh thyme with slow-cooked onions, so I was tempted. I'm really trying not to tweak the first time I try one of her recipes, to be able to make a comparison later when I make additions. Though simple, there's a lot of flavor, especially with the wine and a high-quality grated parm. Be sure to taste and keep adding salt. I love your idea of prosciutto too - I'll try that the next time I make it!

                                                                                                          2. Butter and Rosemary Sauce - wonderful - has butter, rosemary, garlic and a crushed beef boullion cube - sauce takes about five minutes. I halved the recipe and a cooked a little under a half pound of spaghetti - served it as an appetizer. A keeper.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                              I made this a few nights ago at the last minute. I had all ingredients on hand, I was very tired, we were hungry.

                                                                                                              We absolutely LOVED this (halved recipe for two of us). Very comforting. My DH was not buying that it would have so much flavor as the garlic and rosemary are strained from the sauce. Garlic, rosemary, and a bit beefy (I used better than bullion instead of a bullion cube). Save this one for a quick, comfy weeknight meal.

                                                                                                              1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                                                                By the way, I've used that recipe (from the original Marcella cookbook where it appeared) for 30 years as a stand-by.

                                                                                                                You do not need to strain it (certainly not the garlic), athough with dried rosemary that might be worthwhile. (I generally use fresh, finely chopped, since it grows commonly where I live.) Nor use all butter (olive oil or, best of all, fat from any roast meat drippings works well -- an herbed Thanksgiving turkey for instance is a good source of quality fat to store frozen).

                                                                                                                It is an endlessly adaptable principle. I've used roast or browned garlic, concentrated meat juices instead of stock cube (thus getting closer to the sauce's origins that Marcella related in the original book), sometimes other herbs. But garlic and rosemary do play together awfully well.

                                                                                                            2. Tuna Sauce with Tomatoes and Garlic (Essentials page. 180)

                                                                                                              This was an excellent recipe. More importantly, it was fast and I had all the ingredients at home. I pretty much followed the recipe. Next time, I would cut up a hot pepper and simmer it with the garlic and I would probably add chopped anchovies to the mix. Oh, and I would probably add the whole can of tomotoes. I like my pastas on the saucy side. But, this is a quick easy week night dinner and definitely a keeper.

                                                                                                              1. Just wanted to throw out there that I doubled the Tomato Sauce III recipe by doubling the tomatoes, salt and sugar; doubling the butter by half; and keeping the onion the same (6 tbsp butter, 1 onion, 4 C tomatoes, 3 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar).

                                                                                                                It came out tasting the same as the recipe, which was a relief--a little less butter in each serving.

                                                                                                                1. I looked at a friend's "Essentials" last weekend and turned first to the Pasta chapter. She's certainly... *severe,* I guess is the word I want. She describes one pasta machine--a kind I've never seen, where eggs and flour go in one end and pasta is extruded at the other--as making "a mucilaginous and contemptible product." And several pages on the "movements"--like a symphony or string quartet--of rolling pasta by hand... a little intimidating, though I'm not a beginner in the kitchen. Anybody else feel this way?

                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: rootlesscosmo

                                                                                                                    Making pasta by hand is a fairly difficult art. If you were trying to do it, you'd probably find the drawings and detailed instructions helpful.

                                                                                                                    1. re: rootlesscosmo

                                                                                                                      I used to have a roommate from Florence who is the only person I ever saw roll pasta by hand. The taste of her pasta was beyond words. It was chewy but light, with very slight unevenness along the strands which picked up sauce very delicately. It's impossible to duplicate this with a pasta roller. As Marcella points out, hand-rolled pasta is stretched; machine-rolled pasta is compressed.

                                                                                                                      I tried a few times to roll pasta by hand but never could, even with Marcella's drawings. I should add that I've been making Chinese noodles rolled with a machine since my early childhood, so I know a fair amount about handling pasta dough.

                                                                                                                      Marcella can be a bit of a PITA but on this point I have to agree with her. BTW extruded pasta is absolutely horrible, it has a density approaching concrete. A friend described it as like eating snakes.

                                                                                                                      1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                                                                        Homemade Egg Pasta, pg. 111, CIC

                                                                                                                        Just a note to say that MH's directions and proportions for egg pasta are the ones I always turn to, and while I've now made it many times and don't read the 8 pages of instructions and line drawings anymore, they were incredibly useful when I first tried my hand at homemade hand rolled pasta. And the amazing thing is after getting the technique down (which maybe took two or three attempts), it really is quicker and easier to hand roll and cut than to use a machine. I made a batch this week to go with the pan roasted pork form MIK, and tip to tail the noodles took maybe 20 minutes hands on effort.

                                                                                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                          I don't think I could get them as thin rolling by hand as I do with my KA.

                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                            True. And when I want thin sheets--lasagne for example--I definitely use my KA rollers. But for most noodles, and often for filled pasta, personally I prefer to hand roll, it is just quicker and the results are wonderful.

                                                                                                                          2. re: qianning

                                                                                                                            I, too, taught myself using this book. One thing I don't think she mentions, that I learned elsewhere, is to wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest on counter about an hour. I think this is really important. I've had bad results when I've used other recipes that use olive oil and/or water.

                                                                                                                            She does not add salt but I have, at times, done so. Do you?

                                                                                                                            1. re: walker

                                                                                                                              You know I never add salt. sometimes I rest the dough, sometimes not, depends on my schedule.

                                                                                                                              A lot of times nowadays I make whole wheat pasta, using up to 2/3 chapatti flour & the balance AP, if so for a small batch I add a teaspoon of water per egg; if for a larger batch add one egg white. But otherwise the technique and the proportions remain the same as MH out-lines.

                                                                                                                              I too have tried the recipes that call for olive oil--imo, yuck.

                                                                                                                      2. I made potato gnocchi (THREE times!) this past week. I'm posting the whole experience in hopes it will help some other gnocchi virgin. I topped them with gorgonzola sauce from the same book which was very easy and absolutely wonderful.

                                                                                                                        The recipe is from Classic Italian Cooking. Ingredients are just 1.5 lbs potatoes, up to 1 cup flour. MH says not to use waxy or floury potatoes so I used Yukon Golds. Boil, unpeeled until tender. This takes around 30-45 minutes. Don't overtest or the puncture holes will make the potato soggy. When tender, peel and mash with ricer or potato masher. Mix in enough flour so the dough is not too sticky to handle.

                                                                                                                        The gorgonzola sauce is 4 ounces gorgonzola (I used gorgonzola dolce), about 2 Tbs butter and 1/3 cup milk. In the book she adds cream to the pasta which is served with the sauce so I put the cream (1/4 cup) into the sauce. Bring to a simmer, mix everything until blended. Set aside. This can be refrigerated and reheated which I did several times.

                                                                                                                        Gnocchi, Take One:
                                                                                                                        I followed the recipe above but when it came to mixing in the flour I didn't know if the potato should be hot or cool. None of the recipes I found gave specific directions. I mixed in my flour when the potato was still quite hot, using just under 1 cup flour. I wasn't ready to start cooking so I covered the dough and left it. BIG MISTAKE! When I came back about an hour later, it had mutated into a strange wet, spongy mass reminiscent of a biga or poolish (starter for bread). I don't know if the change was because I mixed it when the potato was hot or not making the gnocchi immediately. I had to add a lot of flour - over a cup to make the dough marginally manageable. When I tried cooking a few they were like heavy sodden dumplings as you would expect. I dunked them in the gorgonzola sauce which would be good on anything but ended up throwing the entire batch away.

                                                                                                                        Gnocchi, Take Two:
                                                                                                                        I started again with half the recipe amounts. This time I let the potato cool, mixed in just under a half-cup of flour, and made the gnocchi immediately. NOTE: the dough is still sticky but don't add a lot of flour, it makes the gnocchi heavy. Keep everything dusted with flour, particularly your hands. My gnocchi had the thumb indent but the grooves made with a fork were shapeless. I dropped about a third into boiling water. ANOTHER NOTE: when you start cooking these, turn the heat down. I didn't so my gnocchi whirled away in the boiling water. I had no idea how to time them - recipe says to cook for about a minute after they rise to the surface. If your gnocchi are being swirled in rapidly boiling water this never happens. I fished them out after a short while but when I put them on a plate, they were mushy and on the point of dissolving. We ate them anyway. As I said, the sauce would be good on anything. Definitely overcooked but NOT heavy. I took this to be progress.

                                                                                                                        Gnocchi, Take Three:
                                                                                                                        Several recipes call for the gnocchi to air-dry so I left the rest of my batch on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and lightly floured. I cooked these last night. This time I turned the heat down after dropping them into the boiling water. They rose to the surface after about 1-2 minutes. I let them cook for about another minute. Test for doneness by eating one. SUCCESS AT LAST!!! The gnocchi were light, not as feather-light as some I've had in restaurants but pretty darned good. Without sauce they have a slight potato flavor, quite pleasant. With the sauce they were decadent.

                                                                                                                        So, to sum up what I learnt: let your potato cool before mixing in flour keeping flour to a minimum; shape gnocchi immediately; let air-dry on cookie sheet in refrigerator at least a couple of hours; cook in water that is boiling but not turbulent; test for doneness about a minute after gnocchi rise to the surface. And definitely make the gorgonzola sauce which would make rubber bands taste good.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                                                                          Thanks so much for your post - I've had success with ricotta gnocchi, but never with the potato ones - so you've inspired me to try again.

                                                                                                                        2. Risotto Milanese

                                                                                                                          I made this last night to go with Osso Bucco Milanese. I've made risottos many times from Essentials, but not this one. The consistency was perfect, despite taking it off the heat for about 15 minutes half way through the cooking as my husband couldn't find a cab at Penn Station. Also, I couldn't find my saffron, so he picked some up for me on the way home, and I didn't let it dissolve enough in the hot broth as instructed, so it didn't get that lovely yellow color. Usually when I make risotto, I use chicken broth even if the recipe calls for beef broth, but this time, to follow the recipe faithfully, I used beef broth (diluted purchased stock) and I think I really prefer to use chicken broth. We didn't eat it for about ten minutes after it was ready while my husband sent an email (agh ... I tried to be patient ...) and I was pleasantly surprised that it hadn't turned to mush and was delicious. The best part was putting the marrow from the osso bucco on top of the risotto, and it was delicious! I took photos and will try to post.

                                                                                                                          1. Waaaaaaaaaay behind, but I finally made something of Marcella's!! I made the Classic version of Bolognese and of course, it was amazing! Husband and I also made fresh fetuccine, our first time, and it turned out pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself! ;-) I had to return my books to the library a while back because they were overdue, and well, I never cooked anything from them! (Bad girl, bad girl!) So, I used the bolognese recipe online and I couldn't find a Marcella pasta dough recipe online and used Lidia's... I'm sure they're similar enough. At any rate, we loved everything so much that we made double batches of everything last night to freeze and give to our family members as Thanksgiving presents... I'm sure they will be thrilled! Gnocchi has to be next!

                                                                                                                            1. Bolognese Meat Sauce (pg. 203 in Essentials)

                                                                                                                              I made this last night and it was delicious. It was also sheer torture waiting for the sauce to finish. The smell of the simmering sauce for 3+ hours almost made me chew my arm off and I ended up snacking a lot more than I wanted. Keeping in mind the debates about this version v. the classics version, I did the following:

                                                                                                                              I split the baby in the amounts for the onion, carrots and celery. More than 2T but considerably less than the 1/2 c (onion) and 2/3 cup for the veggies. I also used 2 cups for the canned tomatoes. For the meat, I had 1/2 lb of beef and 1/4 lb of pork.

                                                                                                                              Technique - I followed the essentials instructions to simmer the milk with the meat before adding the wine. Marcella's explanation for this order - to protect the meat from the acidity of the wine. What I found interesting was the texture of the meat, after the milk had simmered away. Visually, it looked the same. However, when I stirred it around, I could feel how light the meat crumbles were. They practically danced off the spatula. It's difficult to explain, but made enough of an impression that I called C over to feel the sensation.

                                                                                                                              The end product was worth the wait. Next time, I'll be sure to start it earlier and have more snacking treats around the house.

                                                                                                                              Pic of finished product:

                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                                                                  Bolognese Meat Sauce (variation of Ragu with Pork), p 203 / p 205

                                                                                                                                  I've never been a big fan of Bolognese sauce, but I liked this one. Perhaps its because I often feel that Bolognese tastes too "groundbeefy". This was much more subtle.

                                                                                                                                  I doubled the recipe and used the variation that called for 1 part ground pork to 2 parts ground beef. I made this about a month ago, and froze it in Ziploc bags in half cup servings. I've probably had it for dinner about once a week since then. I'd definitely make it again.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: stockholm28

                                                                                                                                    I make this two or three times a year in 4x or 5x proportions and then freeze in two cup portions. Then I make her Green Lasagna which is a ton of work but at least I'm not making the B. sauce also.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                      Great idea and glad to hear it works well in larger quantities. It wasn't hard to make, but the nearly 4 hours that it took me from start to finish was definitely an investment.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: stockholm28

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, it takes forever, and at 4x+ it takes even longer but as long as I'm doing it I may as well go all the way. When one of our daughters had her baby two years ago, we were heading to visit and I asked what I could bring. She asked for Bolognese Sauce :)

                                                                                                                                  2. re: beetlebug

                                                                                                                                    Bolognese Meat Sauce

                                                                                                                                    I used this online recipe and made a double recipe.

                                                                                                                                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem...

                                                                                                                                    I expected to spend a cozy afternoon making this recipe, but in fact it took a lot longer than I expected (probably 7 hours total) since reducing the 2 c milk and 2 c wine at a low simmer took quite a long time. I used smaller quantities of the celery and carrot, after reading the thread above about this version vs. the classics version. It was very interesting to the see the transformation of the sauce from its separate parts (meat, milk, wine, tomato) into a cohesive whole over the course of 2 afternoons.

                                                                                                                                    I used the bolognese to make a lasagne bolognese using store bought fresh egg lasagna sheets and marcella's bechamel. Wow! I had never had a lasagne like this before. Very rich and savory. You couldn't really pick out the individual components much. Really, to me the thing it tasted most like was parmesan, which is to say, it tasted really good.

                                                                                                                                    I still have 2 cups or so of the ragu bolognese sitting in my fridge. I'm trying to decide whether to put it in the freezer as a treat for later or serve it tomorrow with pasta. I am excited to try the sauce on it's own with pasta to see how it shines in that application.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                                                                      That lasagna recipe (I make my own pasta but still) completely changed my lasagna-eating life. No heavy meat sauce, no globs of ricotta or mozzarella. I describe it as rich but not heavy. Glad you like it also.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                        Making the real deal lasagne bolognese with the home made spinach noodles is on the bucket list now. Couldn't quite swing it this week, but some day.... Rich but not heavy is an apt description.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                                                                          By making the Bolognese sauce in large quantity, that reduces the labor and time. It's still a lengthy process but doable. And I've assembled the lasagna, frozen it uncooked and had it weeks later.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                                                                        Baked Green Lasagne with Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style, p. 215

                                                                                                                                        I made this for a small dinner party, and it was delicious.

                                                                                                                                        For the bolognese sauce, I made a double recipe of the original recipe from MH's Classic Italian Cookbook (online recipe below) with the lower amounts of onion, celery, and carrots, except that I halved the amount of butter and oil called for, and I made the pork variation because I, too, am less a fan of strictly "beefy" ragus. Even with the reduced amount of fat, the sauce was extremely fatty: I removed a layer of probably two inches after refrigerating the sauce overnight.

                                                                                                                                        On the second day, I made the spinach lasagne. While I made spinach lasagne from MH's "Marcella Says . . . " a couple of weeks ago with great results, this batch gave me fits. This time I opted for 1/3 package frozen spinach instead of fresh, cooked, drained, squeezed, and chopped, but I guess I did not chop the spinach finely enough as you can probably see in my photo. The pasta was difficult to roll (and probably could have used more flour), but in the end it was absolutely fine once parboiled and incorporated into the finished dish.

                                                                                                                                        Bechamel was mixed with the meat sauce and layered with grated parmigiano between the pasta layers (six in all; and I had to supplement with one layer of storebought fresh sheets to get the height I wanted).

                                                                                                                                        This was excellent--it was devoured in one sitting by us and guests--but my husband and I still think our regular bolognese is a tad better.

                                                                                                                                        http://www.dinneralovestory.com/real-...

                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                          Wow NMC, looks delicious!

                                                                                                                                          I must say I am a bit disappointed I didn't challenge myself to make fresh pasta this month. I have the press attachment for my stand mixer, but I thought I might give Marcella's hand made instructions a try, alas the month has gotten away from me.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                            I was really surprised to see the picture of the pasta itself. This is the only lasagna I will make or eat and I'm glad it turned out for you. Attached are a couple of pix of how mine always looks. I'm always able to roll it out down to the 7 setting on the KA. And, yeah, maybe the spinach didn't get chopped finely enough. I admit to making the pasta dough in the FP. And when rolling it out (over and over and over again!) I regularly add small amounts of flour to the board where I lay and then fold it. I also never run completely out of the pasta although I frequently think I'm going to :)

                                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                              You've made two beautiful lasagne this month. Thanks for the inspiration.

                                                                                                                                        2. Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce (pg. 173)

                                                                                                                                          Nice, easy recipe and I was able to use my CSA broccoli. This was delicious. Essentially, blanch a bunch of broccoli (including the stalk) and chop into pieces. In a large skillet, add olive oil and slowly breakup chopped anchovies. Add the broccoli and hot chile peppers, stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta (I used orecchiette) and cheese.

                                                                                                                                          The recipe called for 1.5 lbs of pasta. I used only half a pound and it was enough. I like a heavier veggie to pasta ratio and this was perfect. There was just the right amount of cheesy goodness to offset the broccoli and the umami of the anchovies.

                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                                                                            I have my eye on that one for this month too. Thanks for posting. It looks and sounds like an umami bomb, with good-for-you broccoli along for the ride!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                                                                              Broccoli and Anchovy Sauce, p. 173

                                                                                                                                              This was delicious, much more successful IMO than the very similar cauliflower sauce I reported downthread. My only real deviation was to use 8 anchovy fillets instead of 6, and all parmigiano instead of a mix of parmigiano and pecorino. We used the full amount of sauce with about 2/3 pound of pasta, and this was perfect for us. A keeper!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                Just made this sauce again the other night (with the same adjustments) and we just loved it again! The broccoli-anchovy combination is killer. And no garlic or onion to chop makes for a super-quick prep -- perfect when you get home late and have to eat NOW.

                                                                                                                                            2. Spinach Sauce with Ricotta and Ham Pg. 162 (IIRC)

                                                                                                                                              This was my first recipe from Essentials and we quite liked it. It is very simple and somewhat similar to another recipe I make from "Vegetables from and Italian Garden", but I liked Marcella's version better.

                                                                                                                                              She suggests pairing with rigatoni, which I did and I think it went very well. There is a good deal of butter in the sauce, but the recipe feeds 4-6 so I suppose it wasn't a sacrilegious amount. I went with about 20 oz of pasta and that was just right with 2 lbs of fresh spinach.

                                                                                                                                              Overall I found the butter and the ricotta made for a rich taste and smooth mouth feel, and the spinach was a great pairing. I do think there wasn't enough ham, I would likely go with at least double next time (ie. 4-5 oz). Overall a very easy, veggie packed main course pasta that we quite enjoyed.

                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                              1. Lasagne with Mushrooms and Ham Pg. 217

                                                                                                                                                I had quite a bit of ham left over from another dish so I decided to try my hand at this lasagne. I was doing several other things that day so I purchased my lasagne noodles, hopefully that wasn't too sinful of me.

                                                                                                                                                While I love mushrooms, I sometimes find the flavour of large amounts of dried mushrooms a bit too pungent. As I was reconstituting the mushrooms I started to worry that I might find this dish to be too heavy on the dried mushrooms so once they were reconstituted I chopped them up relatively finely so as to avoid any single large pieces of reconstituted dried mushroom. I think that helped, but overall once the mushroom is mixed with the fresh mushrooms and the bechamel, what you end up with is a lovely thick, almost mushroom soup like mixture that has great umami flavour. The dried mushrooms are dominant, but not overpoweringly so.

                                                                                                                                                She suggests a minimum of 6 layers of noodles, but at 5 my dish was pretty full so I stopped. Also, she has you put the last remaining few tablespoons of reserved bechamel on the top and then into the oven it goes. I assumed she meant for the last few tablespoons to go over the last layer of noodles, but she didn't specify so I went with my gut and did it that way. Also I had reserved about 6 tb of bechamel for the top, as well as a little parmesan. Once this was all dotted with some butter it came out relatively nicely, but I do think 1/2 to 2/3 cups bechamel for the top would make for a nicer and a tastier presentation. Also, I went with closer to 1.25 cups of parmesan, which for us was great. Finally, she has you julienne the ham but I think a dice would work better so that the julienne of ham doesn't get away from you when you are slicing the lasagne. I found that it was hard to keep the slices somewhat neat looking with the julienne of ham sticking out every which way.

                                                                                                                                                Overall a relatively easy lasagne to do while you are putting together other things, and a lovely dish with great homey fall flavours.

                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                1. Carbonara Sauce, p. 202

                                                                                                                                                  I'm surprised no one has made this yet, since it is one of the simplest and most delicious pasta preparations imaginable.

                                                                                                                                                  Marcella's version is foolproof. Just classic. In the headnote to the recipe, she talks about your pork options. The recipe calls for pancetta or bacon (American smoked bacon), but she points out that in Rome, it often uses salted (not smoked) pork jowl. Based on this, for my rendition, I used salt pork (which is salt-cured, but not smoked), combined with a bit of duck bacon.

                                                                                                                                                  The recipe could not be easier to make. You can do the whole thing while you boil the water and cook your pasta. You break the eggs into a large enough bowl to hold the finished dish, and beat in some parmigiano-reggiano and romano cheeses, some pepper, and some chopped parsley. In a sauté pan, you heat some oil, and sauté a few cloves of garlic (whole). As the garlic starts to color, you remove it, and add your pancetta or bacon (or in my case, salt pork and duck bacon). When the bacon starts to crisp, you add some wine and cook for just a minute or two. Since I wanted a one-dish meal, I deviated from the recipe just a bit, and added some spinach leaves to the bacon/wine mixture, and sautéed until just wilted.

                                                                                                                                                  To finish, you drain your cooked pasta and add it to the large bowl containing the eggs, toss, and then pour the hot bacon mixture on top and toss again, then serve immediately.

                                                                                                                                                  I'm not sure what to say about spaghetti carbonara. It's delicious, it's easy. This version is as delicious and easy as any you'll find. If you add some greens, as I did, you'll want quick-cooking ones, like spinach or arugula. Such an easy weeknight meal.

                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                  17 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                    This is definitely on my list to make. I have only attempted it once at home but I ended up with little scrambled egg bits. Not sure if it was my fault or an error in the recipe I used (Essential New York Times I think), but I'm hoping to get it right as I quite like this dish at an Italian place near my office. Thanks Melmm for the great review.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: delys77

                                                                                                                                                      I think this recipe is easier than most and avoids any danger of scrambled eggs because you have the eggs in a separate bowl, and add the pasta to them, rather than adding the eggs to the pasta in the pan.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                        Another cool method is to take a ladel full of the pasta water and put that over your eggs/cheese/herbs in the sparate bowl and wisk together. This helps temper the eggs so once it's all poured back into the pan and aggitated, it becomes super creamy and doesn't scramble or set.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Novelli

                                                                                                                                                          With Marcella's recipe, if you don't overdrain, you get a fair amount of pasta water in the eggs. No need to ladle it out, no need to pour everything back into the pasta pot.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                            The tempering is what must be do it then. I will make sure not to over drain my pasta.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                      I always use the Silver Spoon recipe for carbonara, which is very similar but has butter as well as oil, and no wine. Will have to try this one to see how it compares. I do actually have guanciale from Italy in the fridge, which I believe is the pork jowl she refers to.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                        Correct about the guanciale, although she doesn't use that term. I can get both cured and uncured pork jowl locally, so I'll probably try it again with the cured jowl. But salt pork is very similar.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                        That's pretty amazing that it never got written up. That's the thing I make the most from this book. As you say, "it's delicious, it's easy." It's one of those things where, except for the parsley, I almost always have the ingredients on hand.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                          I think this may be the perfect carbonara recipe for me! I tried it last night and we absolutely loved it. The only difference in my usual technique (from The Silver Spoon) is to use only EVOO, rather than a mixture of butter and oil, add wine to the sautéed bacon, and to mix the pasta with the cheese and egg in a bowl, rather than in the pan. Oh, and I don't usually add romano, but I happened to have a very good one in the fridge. It worked perfectly and was really delicious. My go-to carbonara recipe from now on.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                            This has been our traditional Christmas Eve dinner for almost two decades, starting from the days when my now 22-year-old daughter called it "white 'paghetti." It is the best carbonara recipe, heck, the best carbonara, I have ever made or eaten. Delicious, simple, with the slightly sharp bite of the cheeses tempered by the silky mellowness of the eggs and wine.

                                                                                                                                                            We use always one particular brand of pancetta purchased from an Italian market here in St. Paul, and always both the pecorino romano and parmigiano. I personally love guanciale in it, but my family prefers the pancetta. Whichever you choose, make sure you cook the meat long enough to crisp the edges a bit. I like slightly long, skinny oblong cuts better than squares or blocks.

                                                                                                                                                            It's important in my opinion to cut the parsley finely, and to have your eggs at room temperature. I beat the eggs well with a fork prior to adding the parsley, cheeses and pepper, and have never had them curdle on us.

                                                                                                                                                            The beating occurs in a large, shallow platter rather than in a bowl; that gives the pasta plenty of surface contact when I dump it in, and makes the tossing easier. It's also gorgeous to serve from a platter, all those lovely golden tangles with rose and bits of green.

                                                                                                                                                            The choice of wine can really alter the flavor too. I really should start keeping track and making notes, but in general we do prefer a drier white, although I've also successfully used soft, slightly sweet whites that simply add a different overtone.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: clepro

                                                                                                                                                              Just made this (again) last night. It's the perfect thing when we just get home and there's little in the fridge. I mostly use bacon cause it's always here. I cut the slices in scant 1/4' short pieces. I use a BIG pasta bowl so get the same big surface as you suggest. I put the cheese in the bowl first, then add the eggs and pepper and beat.

                                                                                                                                                              I believe it was CH some years ago where I got the rec for a sparkling rose' to go with this. Since then I've discovered that it goes with LOTS of things :)

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: MelMM

                                                                                                                                                              I made a half-recipe of the Carbonara tonight. Easy, although a bit oily for our tastes. The white wine added a nice flavor. I'd make it using only a touch of oilve oil spray for toasting the garlic and cooking the meat next time. I used ham - it's what I had on hand - as the meat. I served this as a main, with green peas on the side. A half-recipe made plenty for two, with leftovers for our lunch tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                                                                                I'm curious what added the too much oiliness, especially since it sounds like you didn't cook the garlic in oo.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, I cooked the garlic in 1 1/2T olive oil, per the online recipe (halved - it called for 3 T for full recipe), then removed the garlic and browned the ham in the oil (which released some added fat), then added the wine. Next time, I'll use just a spray.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks. But the oo is what I add to the pasta/egg/cheese/etc. to make it what it is. I'm still missing something obviously.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                      The bacon/ham add plenty of fat for flavor, as does the melted cheese - the olive oil carries the garlic flavoring into the dish but 4-5 teaspoons of oil for a half-recipe was too much for our taste. I think a far smaller amount would be enough to pick up the garlic.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                                                                                                                        That's cool. We all have our taste preferences.

                                                                                                                                                            3. Tomato Sauce with Porcini Mushrooms

                                                                                                                                                              In this recipe, you start by soaking 1 oz of dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water. 2T each of chopped onion and pancetta (I subbed bacon) are sauteed in a mix of butter and oil. Then you add 1.5 cups of fresh or canned tomatoes (I used a mix), the soaked porcini, and the strained porcini liquid. Simmer for about 40 minutes until the sauce is done. Serve generally dusted with parmigianno reggiano.

                                                                                                                                                              OK. Until now, I have never added 2 cups of water to any pasta sauce I have made. I was really nervous about this but decided to go ahead and trust Marcella. I added it all, and as you would expect, the sauce looked REALLY watery at first. But lo and behold, by the time the sauce was done all the water had reduced and the resulting sauce was a thick and delicious as any I have made. Because the sauce incorporates both dried porcini and the reduced soaking liquid, there is A LOT of porcini flavor. The sauce is dark and rich with tons of umami. If you don't love the flavors of dried mushrooms, you will not like this sauce, but if you do, give this one a try. Oh - it doesn't make a huge quantity of sauce. It would not be enough for a full pound of pasta in my house (we do not necessarily follow the minimalist italian approach to dressing our pasta).

                                                                                                                                                              1. Risotto with Sausages Pg. 257

                                                                                                                                                                I love risotto, and I love sausage so this was a no brainer for me.

                                                                                                                                                                The ingredient list, and quantities, were generally quite minimalist but the end result was plenty flavourful. She has you saute a few tablespoons of onion (shallot in my case) in some butter and oil and then add 3/4 lbs of sliced sausage (1 lbs in my case). She specifies sweet sausage so I went with a mild Italian sausage from a butcher near my house that makes lovely sausages. I think Marcella mentions somewhere that Italian sausage in North America has too much fennel, but I love fennel so I was happy with my sausage.

                                                                                                                                                                I sliced the sausage as directed and I do think this was better than simply removing the casing and crumbling it as the resulting sausage slices were almost like little meatballs with a lovely brown crust on them from the sautéing.

                                                                                                                                                                Once your sausage has some good colour in goes the wine, which you cook off for a bit before adding your rice. Once everything is properly coated with the lovely juices from the sausage and the onion in goes your first ladle of stock. She suggests 5 cups and then a taste after about 20 minutes or so. In my case I used about 6 cups and I had the soft texture I like at about 25 minutes. Mind you this is a bit faster than my usual method because I don't usually use a very high flame on my risotto, but Marcella has you cook it at med/high the whole time. With diligent stirring this didn't prove to be a problem and I think the risotto cooked a bit more quickly this way. Lastly in goes the rest of the butter, a bit of parmesan and some pepper.

                                                                                                                                                                The final result was a lovely meal with browned sausages studded throughout, and rice that had that faint flavour of wine and sausage paired with that lovely texture that only risotto can give you.

                                                                                                                                                                Upon first reading of the recipe I was a bit sceptical because I usually use more cheese, more butter, and more wine in my risotto, but when I saw the lovely juices given off by the sausage I realized Marcella's wisdom. A good pork sausage should give off plenty of flavour and seasoning for your dish, so that you can use a lighter hand with the other flavourings.

                                                                                                                                                                Even upon tasting for salt at the end I was good to go, but this is likely due to the highly seasoned sausage.

                                                                                                                                                                All in all a very good risotto!

                                                                                                                                                                1. Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Oil and Chili Pepper, p. 172

                                                                                                                                                                  Got home late, needed a quick dinner, had pasta in the pantry and cauliflower in the fridge, so this recipe fit the bill. I did make a few modifications to the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                  Rather than boil the whole cauliflower first for 20-30 minutes as she recommends, I chopped it into large pieces (for easy fishing out) and parboiled them for a few minutes in the pasta water. When nearly soft, I fished them out and chopped smaller, to the size of walnuts as marcella suggests. While the pasta was cooking, I did the following. Sauteed 2 large chopped garlic cloves in olive oil (she says 1/2 cup but I couldn't bring myself to use that much - I probably used 1/4 cup or so -- what I consider a generous amount). Add 6 chopped anchovies. Here she had this crazy step where you take the pan off the heat, put it over the simmering pasta water and gently mash the anchovy into the olive oil. No thank you. My anchovies went straight into the pan along with some red pepper flakes and the cauliflower, which is stirred and mashed into the garlic/anchovy sauce. When the pasta is ready you stir it all together. You are supposed to add fresh parsley but I didn't have any, and also fresh red chili pepper, but I used dried because of my kids.

                                                                                                                                                                  I do routinely make pasta with cauliflower sauce because it is such a quick meal, incorporates a lot of veg with the pasta, and in the winter I usually have the ingredients. However, IMO cauliflower is a bland base for pasta sauce (perhaps it's the white on white effect) and this recipe is no exception. We couldn't taste the anchovy, I think I would use 10 anchovies at least next time. In addition, after tasting we punched up the recipe with some capers and a generous shower of toasted herbed bread crumbs. Maybe these wouldn't have been necessary had I followed directions and added parsley, hot pepper, and lots more olive oil? I don't know and probably never will. But with these additions, we had quite a good weeknight dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                  I had just under 1.5 pounds of cauliflower, and we used the sauce for just over 1/2 pound of pasta. Marcella says that the sauce should accommodate 1-1.5 pounds of pasta, but for this kind of thing I like to have more veg and less pasta in the bowl.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce with Sausages p.197

                                                                                                                                                                    I don't often make pasta with sauce beyond a basic tomato/meat concoction--even that only a handful of times a year--and figured it was about time this situation was rectified. The big bag of coloured peppers in the back of the fridge begging for a use played a pretty large part in the recipe selection, and it stands as a good choice that I would be happy to make again.

                                                                                                                                                                    The simple ingredient listing calls for a small amount of onion heated up in a pan with olive oil (I notice that all of Hazan's recipes instruct to do it in this fashion--adding ingredients to a cold pan) and cooking until slightly coloured, then adding sliced sweet sausages and sauteeing a bit to hold their shape before adding the peeled and cubed peppers. Once these have softened, in goes a cup of chopped tinned tomatoes and the lot is heated at a "lively simmer" until flavours meld. The sauce is then mixed with cooked pasta, some butter, and a generous handful of grated parmesan.

                                                                                                                                                                    Because I am supremely lazy these days in the cooking department, I declined the option to use freshly made pasta and instead opened up a box of penne. The pasta to sauce ratio was just right, even though I used only a pound of pasta instead of the called for 1 1/2 lbs. The bell pepper peeling was poorly executed on my end, but the few skinless pieces I enjoyed convinced me to do a more thorough job in the future. The silky and unctuous feel of unclad peppers on my tongue makes the task worthwhile. I had to resist the urge to pour in a few glugs of cream over the sauce, and am glad I stayed true to the recipe, as it was quite tasty on its own without any meddling from me. Simple, filling, and delicious. Can't ask for any more.

                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                      Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce with Sausages Pg. 197

                                                                                                                                                                      My turn for this lovely little dish. Allegra does a great job explaining the process above so I will limit myself to my modifications and impressions.

                                                                                                                                                                      Firstly, I was too lazy to even bother trying to peel the peppers. That said I really didn't find that this marred the end result in any way, I still wouldn't peel in the future. Secondly, my sausage had a bit of spice to it and some fennel, which Marcella suggests you should avoid in this preparation. In my humble opinion I thought the dish really needed the spice and seasoning of the sausage to offset the very sweet peppers and tomatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                      With these small changes however I thought my 1 lb of dried papardelle was very well sauced in a sweet yet spicy sauce that had good balance and a bit of richness from the hit of butter and the generous amount of olive oil you start out with. A good dish in my books.

                                                                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                    2. Embogoné (Cranberry Beans, Sage, and Rosemary Sauce)

                                                                                                                                                                      Recipe online at http://books.google.com/books?id=1FVL...

                                                                                                                                                                      I saw this recipe recommended in a previous thread ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/348676 ), and it was indeed simple and delicious. I used dried borlotti beans and saved plenty of bean liquid to add to the sauce. I don't tend to have pancetta around the house, so I just used some more olive oil plus a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I had it over farro casarecci; with some greens, this made for a nice vegetarian dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. MUSHROOM, HAM, AND CREAM SAUCE – p. 195

                                                                                                                                                                        Though I’ve been travelling I couldn’t resist pulling my Marcella books off the shelf as soon as I returned with the hopes of making a few dishes in my short time back at home and contributing to this COTM.

                                                                                                                                                                        For those who don’t have the book, I found the recipe online here: http://elenacooks.tumblr.com/post/440...

                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t have a lot of experience cooking from Marcella’s books but I do recall her recipes to be especially prescriptive so I selected this one, in part, because it wasn’t overly verbose therefore it didn’t demand much of my time in advance. I should also note that I didn’t make my own fettuccine and used a fresh from the Italian market version instead.

                                                                                                                                                                        The prep is fairly straightforward as you’ll see in the recipe above. I did appreciate Ms Hazan’s specificity around cooking the mushrooms and was quite pleased to get precisely the results she described in the exact amount of time she suggested. The recipe calls for cremini or button mushrooms and I opted for the former. It also suggests onions or shallots and I opted for shallots.

                                                                                                                                                                        The finished dish was far greater than the sum of its parts and the ham/mushroom combo was delightful in the light, creamy sauce. I’d definitely make this again. A great way to make use of leftover ham.

                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                          Glad you could share a couple quick recipes before your travels take you elsewhere again. Sounds creamy and comforting- just the ticket for this chilly weather.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. CONCHIGLIE CON BACON, PISELLI, E RICOTTA (PASTA SHELLS WITH BACON, PEAS AND RICOTTA) – p. 150 – MORE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING

                                                                                                                                                                          For those without the book and, to make my reporting easier, I’m attaching a link to the full recipe here:

                                                                                                                                                                          http://fiftytworecipesfrommymother.bl...

                                                                                                                                                                          I selected this recipe as I needed a super-quick side dish to serve w a Porchetta and I’d just picked up some fresh ricotta from our Italian market. Marcella points out that the sauce takes so little time to prepare that you can start it at the same time you put the water on to boil for the pasta. That’s exactly what I did and the dish truly does come together in no time. The only adaptation I made was to add some fresh basil to the finished dish. This is another example of how a few great ingredients can be combined to produce something truly wonderful. The shells were the perfect vehicle to scoop up the cheese and peas. The simplicity of the sauce allows the sweet peas to shine. I used the bacon fat but didn’t use any bacon at all in the dish. The bacon flavour was not discernable in the finished dish and I honestly think this would be perfectly fine if one used butter instead of the bacon fat. Delicious and definitely a dish I’ll repeat.

                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                            We have been making this dish for years -its wonderful with petite peas and good fresh ricotta (whole milk preferred)..A great way of using up half a carton of leftover ricotta, which we have sometimes. I would not leave out the bacon (unless you MUST - or are serving with porchetta, I guess). smoky bacon is what the recipe calls for - it sets off the freshness of the peas and ricotta nicely - but we have also made it with pancetta, guanciale, prosciutto, and the most recent time some spanish lardo. we often add a tbsp or two of minced onions when we saute the bacon. Then add in the frozen peas to thaw out, then the pasta to coat, and heat through finally mix thoroughly with the cheeses. Sometimes a minute or two in the microwave is helpful since the ricotta cools the dish down a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                            Great comfort food.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                                              Pasta Shells with Bacon, Peas and Ricotta p. 163 (Essentials of Italian Cooking)

                                                                                                                                                                              Like Breadcrumbs, we found this to be delicious and would make it again. It's a great "I'm hungry and want something tasty...fast" dish.

                                                                                                                                                                              It turned out to be the perfect use for some leftover ricotta (we've been using Bellwether Farms sheep's milk ricotta and absolutely love it). Our bacon (Thielen Meats) did not render much fat which probably changed the results a bit, but with the ricotta, butter and parmesan cheese, it was plenty rich.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream (sorry I didn't make a note of the page number)

                                                                                                                                                                              My mother is visiting for a few days and I had to put something together last night that wouldn't keep me in the kitchen and away from my guests for very long. This recipe definitely fit the ticket.

                                                                                                                                                                              So simple, yet so tasty. You just place the butter, minced onion, carrots, and celery in a pan with some fresh or canned tomatoes (I used canned plums that I snipped up with the scissors while still in the can), and a touch of salt. You let the lot simmer slowly for 45 minutes, then you process with an immersion blender, add the cream and simmer for another minute or two. Taste for seasoning and then toss with the pasta. In my case I used papardelle, one of her suggestions, and it worked perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                                              The sauce is quite thick and has a lovely consistency, clinging perfectly to the long starchy noodles as a result of the quick blending in of the vegetable ingredients. For me this was just the type of pasta dish I love, one that has the elements of a rich silky sauce but that still retains the elements of a fresh sauce. The relatively low simmer for 45 minutes made for a good melding of flavours but the tomatoes still had some freshness to them. Once the cream went in, it was pretty much an ideal balance of flavours for us.

                                                                                                                                                                              A sprinkling of fleur de sel, and some parmesan and we had a lovely meal.

                                                                                                                                                                              No picture unfortunately as I was rushing a bit, but the sauce had a lovely orange colour to it.

                                                                                                                                                                              Delicious!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Will someone who owns the Essentials book please clarify for me: For the onion/butter/tomato sauce some on-line recipes have 5 Tblspns butter and some, namely Guliano Hazan, have 8 Ts in the recipe. Some on-line recipes have 2 cups Italian canned tomatoes, some have 28 oz.

                                                                                                                                                                                Please tell me what the original recipe says. MTIA!

                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                  2# fresh tomatoes or 2C canned
                                                                                                                                                                                  5T butter
                                                                                                                                                                                  1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
                                                                                                                                                                                  Salt

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Sicilian Sardine Sauce, p. 187

                                                                                                                                                                                  My portion of the CSA share included a fennel bulb with an enormous amount of greens, and among other things, this recipe calls for lots of fennel greens (in lieu of fresh wild fennel). There are instructions for using either fresh sardines or canned in olive oil; I used the latter, and as the two cans' drained weight was about 5 oz, I adjusted everything else down to make two-thirds the sauce recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                  With apologies to MH, it hardly seemed necessary to boil the fennel greens for 10 minutes when they'd undergo plenty more cooking after. I cooked them for 5, but could have done less. They're fished out of the water, which is saved for cooking the pasta, then squeezed and chopped. A wee amount of chopped onion is cooked in olive oil until translucent, then anchovy fillets are added and stirred until about dissolved (I ignored the instructions to put the pan over simmering water for the anchovy step, and just did it over a low flame). Fennel fronds go in and are sauteed for 5 minutes, then pine nuts, a few raisins that you've soaked in water and chopped, salt and pepper, and water into which you've dissolved some tomato paste and saffron. The liquid is cooked away, and finally the canned sardines (which I broke into bite-size pieces with a fork) go in. The sauce is tossed with the pasta (I used the recommended bucatini) and toasted dried breadcrumbs, and served.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I thought this was very good. Plenty of umami, of course, and all those little bits - fennel, tomato, saffron, the little bit of sweetness from that tiny amount of raisins, etc. - added layers of flavor. She says the full recipe will dress 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. pasta, but I used a half pound with my two-thirds recipe, and thought it worked well, with a good distribution of ingredients. It's a dry "sauce," so the noodles are not drowned.

                                                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                    Sicilian Sardine Sauce, p. 187

                                                                                                                                                                                    I too had lots of fennel greens to put to use after using the bulb in my Thanksgiving stuffing. I made a full version of the recipe with the following changes: used 1/4 instead of 1/2 cup olive oil, did not pre-blanch my fennel greens, pre-soak my raisins, or slowly melt my anchovies over the simmering pasta water. I used the full recipe for just over a half pound of pasta (what we had) -- I think 3/4 pound would be about right. I thought this was excellent. I already have a fennel frond and sardine sauce in regular rotation at our house, and I was surprised at how very different this sauce was, with the pinenuts, raisins and saffron instead of tomatoes, as in my regular sauce. We really enjoyed this sauce and of course it's great to have more ways to use up those fennel fronds! My regular fennel frond/sardine sauce is much easier though, so this one will not be displacing it. Still, I'm glad I tried this version.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                      Westminstress, would you mind sharing your fennel frond and sardine sauce with tomatoes recipe?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course! The recipe is here (so you see, it's not "my" sauce at all, but I heartily recommend it, and I nearly always make it with fronds and stalks, using the bulbs for another purpose):

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://food52.com/recipes/16255-sardi...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Actually, to be perfectly honest, when I buy a bulb of fennel, I usually wind up freezing the thick stalks and some of the fronds, whatever it appears that I won't use in a week or so. I use the frozen fennel stalks to flavor my bean broth, in soups as a substitute for celery, and in this recipe! With frozen fennel, this is a good pantry meal for times when the fridge looks bare.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                          I love this idea of freezing the fennel stalks for use in soups! I'd never thought of this, and we eat a lot of fennel around here. Major tip - thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks, looks good! My regular market trims away a lot of the stalks and fronds from the fennel bulbs (I assume so they fit better on the shelf; they also cut off the celery leaves, which annoys me). The fennel from the farmers' market comes with tons of greens attached, so I'm glad to learn of another use for a quantity, beyond using a bit to adorn salads.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                              Another good one is the Melissa Clark recipe for shrimp with fennel fronds and garlic. From Cook this Now.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Amatriciana Pg. 157

                                                                                                                                                                                      I thought I had seen a review for this but I don't see it anymore, hopefully I am not posting out of line so to speak.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I made this sauce and paired with about 14 oz of rigatoni. Overall I would say it was a very nice sauce. Very simple in terms of its flavour profile with salty pancetta and the light dusting of cheeses, combined with the bright tomatoes, to make a relatively light affect. I would say that I am becoming accustomed to lighter saucing, but for me I would likely double the sauce to serve with a lb of pasta. It might sound sacrilegious to some but I found the pasta a bit on the dry side. Perhaps because it was commercial, but regardless, my commercial pasta needed a bit more sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: delys77

                                                                                                                                                                                        My husband would agree with you, Delys. He likes his macaroni not quite drowning in sauce but a little more than is allotted to these recipes. And growing up having all kinds of macaroni from linguine, to homemade ravioli, lasagne, stuffed shells, etc. I have to say my Italian parents, aunts, uncles, and other assorted relatives all sauced their pasta a tad more than Signora Hazan stipulates. All Italians currently living in Italy notwithstanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                                                          Well I'm glad to know it isn't pasta sacrilege if I am in the good company of your DH and assorted relatives.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I have loved the sauces I have made from Essentials, but I will just need to remember to up my sauce quantities a bit in the future to accommodate for preferences at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                          PS happy Thanksgiving to all our American COTM friends!

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: delys77

                                                                                                                                                                                          I too find that we want more sauce on the commercial pastas. The finer homemade pasta (or even really good "artisanal" boxed pastas) don't warrant as much, imo. But the thicker the pasta, the more sauce I want.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: delys77

                                                                                                                                                                                            Amatriciana, p. 157

                                                                                                                                                                                            I recently made this sauce for the first time and really enjoyed it. The fresh chili adds a nice kick. In terms of quantity, I think 3/4 pound of pasta is perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Tortino di Crespelle (Crepes with Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Cheese) - More Classic Italian Cooking p. 343
                                                                                                                                                                                            This is nice (and easy compared to other savory crepe recipes I have made).
                                                                                                                                                                                            Make 8 crepes from a simple crepe batter and make a simple tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and parsley. Layer crepes with sauce finely chopped mozzarella, grated parm, and finely shredded prosciutto. Bake for 15 min at 400F.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I hadn't made crepes in a while and this was a nice reintroduction.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I used about half recipe for crepe batter as was in my book and made and used somewhat more tomato sauce, but this is close in case anyone is interested:
                                                                                                                                                                                            http://spinachtiger.com/cooking-italy...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Risotto with Asparagus, page 248

                                                                                                                                                                                              This is a fairly straightforward recipe. Start by cooking the asparagus in salted water. When tender, remove the asparagus and let cool a bit. Remove the tender tops, reserve, then cut the rest of the stalks into small pieces. Into a heavy pan, add butter, oil, and the minced onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the small cut asparagus, stir to coat. Add the rice, stir to coat. Use a combination of the asparagus cooking liquid and stock to cook the risotto to the desired texture. Add a bit more butter, the asparagus tips, grated parmesan cheese and some cracked black pepper.

                                                                                                                                                                                              But, I didn't do that exactly. She suggests cooking the asparagus for 4-5 minutes from the time the water begins to boil, but that is too cooked for me. I removed them from the water at about 2.5 minutes after the boil. Though her headnotes admonished the reader to never use chicken stock, that is what I used. I have a lovely chicken stock made this week and no beef stock in the house. I also substituted shallots for the onions since the onions I have seem quite powerful. For my first liquid addition, I added just a bit of vermouth; two tablespoons just for a bit of acidic flavor. It is also possible that there was a tad more cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                                              This was a delicious dish and Mr. Smt murmured several times. I only wish that I had added a bit of lemon zest with the parsley to finish since a little zing might have been nice. My chicken stock had no salt, but the asparagus water had enough for the whole dish. I suspect one needs to be cautious about the salt levels if you are using a commercial stock. Great hit, and it goes on the list of things that I will make again.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                                                Don't you love it when husbands murmur their approval?
                                                                                                                                                                                                Of the food you have set before them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yum, this sounds so good. I love asparagus and rice in the spring.