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Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Which recipes are you trying and why?

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September 2006 Cookbook of the Month. Use this thread to discuss which of Marcella Hazan's recipes you are considering, get feedback from other chowhounds, and find out if anyone else has tried or is trying the same thing. Full length recipe reviews should be posted in the five review threads (by category)-- this thread is intended for menu planning purposes. Have fun!

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Hi Everyone,

    Rubee suggested in a posting under Meat and Seafood Reviews that she will be making Tuscan Meat Rolls from Essentials (p. 403) this weekend and asked if anyone would like to join her.

    I've never made this recipe before and am interesting in making it as well. Anyone else interested?

    I am also thinking of pairing it with another vegetable or pasta dish from Essentials. Any suggestions?

    Let me know if anyone would like me to post a paraphrased version of recipes.

    11 Replies
    1. re: mielimato

      Hi mielimato! I actually had my husband pick two side dishes out of the book - so I'm going with Bolognese mashed potatoes with milk and parmesan, and braised carrots with parmesan.

      Yes - a diet meal. : )

      1. re: Rubee

        That braised carrot recipe is awesome; don't be afraid of cooking it for a long time. The results will be fantastic.

        1. re: farmersdaughter

          "don't be afraid of cooking it for a long time"

          Perfect - great tip! Can't wait to make it.

          1. re: Rubee

            That stuff is vegetable crack. If you're planning to serve more than two people, a double recipe is preferable.

            1. re: Rubee

              You're not kidding! My husband loved them, saying "when have I ever raved about carrots". You're right, definitely not enough for 4 people. We even finished them off with just the two of us - I would have liked to have leftovers!

        2. re: mielimato

          I have the book at home but I'd love to join the cook along! Do you think you could post the ingredients? Knowing what I actually need to buy would be terrific, I have much better shopping options by my office than my apartment!

          1. re: llinza

            Here's your shopping list (serves 4-6):

            1 2X2 inch slice of white bread
            2 tbls milk
            1 lb ground beef
            1 tbl of onion
            2 tbls chopped pancetta or prosciutto
            1/3 cup grated parma cheese
            1 garlic
            1 egg yolk
            fine, dry breadcrumbs to lightly coat meat
            1 tbls butter
            2 tbls vegetable oil
            1/3 c dry white wine
            1 ounce of dry porcini mushrooms
            2/3 c canned Italian plum tomatoes

            Good luck!

            1. re: mielimato

              Ok, here's the paraphrased version--

              1) milk+bread in a saucepan at low heat. one the milk is fully absorbed, create pulp and allow to cool down completely.
              2) mix together meat, bread/milk pulp, finely chopped onions, salt, pepper, chipped prosciutto, grated parma, garlic, and egg yolk with hands, gentlely kneading it together.
              3) shape meat into a compact ball then roll into a "salami-like" cylinder (approx 2.5 inches thick). likely dust with bread crumbs.
              4) use a heavy botten pan, preferably oval or rectangular to accommadate the roll snuggly. heat butter and oil at medium heat and brown the meat all around, using 2 spatulas to carefully turn it.
              5) when browned, add wine. let reduce to half its amount. turn the meat around once or twice more.
              6) reduce heat to medium low and added chopped reconstituted mushrooms. add tomatoes and juice. add filtered mushroom liquid. cover tightly and allow to simmer at low, basting from time to time. after 30 minutes, uncover slightly and cook for another 30 minutes, turning the meat around one or twice.
              7) take the meat out of the pan and let settle for a few minutes. cut it into 3/8 inch slices. if juices in pan as runny, reduce it a bit more. arrange slices in a serving platter and pour cooking juices on top.

              Hope nothing was lost in the paraphrasing! Good luck!

              1. re: mielimato

                Great job! I'll add:

                Prepping the mushrooms: Soak them in 2 cups of barely warm water for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze mushrooms over the bowl so the liquid is added to the soaking water. Rinse reconstituted mushrooms several times, checking for imbedded soil. Pat dry, chop into coarse pieces, and filter mushroom liquid for use in step #6.

                #3. She also mentions to tap it sharply with your palm in several places to remove air bubbles.

                Now I'm hungry.

          2. re: mielimato

            I would love a paraphased version of the recipe.

            1. re: mielimato

              Okay, I have to do this one as well after reading the ingredient list! I don't have the cookbooks yet, so I might be behind you guys, but I'll post when I make it! It sounds so good!

            2. I skimmed through my Classic Italian Cooking last night and decided it was time to tackle gnocchi. I'm thinking of the potato gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. As always Marcella lays down the law about gnocchi - no eggs for her. Unlike Lidia who uses eggs in her version. Anyone with opinions on the two methods?

              I've never tried to make gnocchi probably because my Italian college roommates all said they didn't like it. But I had it twice recently at different restaurants and found it interesting. I love gorgonzola cheese and the sauce which is cheese, butter and cream sounds decadently rich.

              I'm also thinking about the roast chicken with lemons, which sounds like a good follow-on for the gnocchi. We just went through a lot of chicken dishes so I'm not sure if I'm ready for more of the same.

              13 Replies
              1. re: cheryl_h

                I've made both the gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and the roast chicken with lemons and they're both excellent. Now that I think of it, the latter recipe is now a permanent part of our food repetoire; my husband and I both love it.

                1. re: jillp

                  Do you make the gnocchi without eggs? Lidia says it makes the gnocchi easier to handle, Marcella says it makes them heavy.

                  1. re: cheryl_h

                    So Marcella's are just potatoes plus flour and seasonings? I've never heard of egg-less gnocchi before--I assumed the egg was necessary to keep them from disintegrating in the water. If you've tried both (with and w/o eggs) could you post a comparison report? That would be great--thanks.

                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      That is interesting... is there not a binder at all then?

                      1. re: Katie Nell

                        To rootlesscosmo and Katie Nell - the recipe has no eggs and Marcella specifically says that this is the BEST way to make light gnocchi, adding an egg makes handling easier but the gnocchi end up heavy. From what I know of making egg and eggless pasta, I would guess the eggy gnocchi are more chewy. It looks like I'm in for some marathon gnocchi-making this weekend.

                        I just checked some online sources and apparently the binder is the flour. I guess this is the tricky part, you need enough flour to form the gnocchi but not too much or they'll be dense.

                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          I've tried making her gnocchi twice; the first time I made mashed potatoes, and the second time, they were a bit doughy. I suspect it was because I had to add more flour because my kitchen's small, and with the water boiling, it kept steaming the dough and keeping it from staying dry enough to form gnocchi. I'll probably try again during this month, but I'll roll them out in my living room instead of my galley kitchen.

                          A hint from my grandmother--she used to roll them out, form them, and then freeze them overnight. I think Lidia's recommended this, too. It dries them out a bit more so they're less likely to fall apart in the water.

                    2. re: cheryl_h

                      I've never used eggs and they come out really light. But be very careful with the flour and make sure you add enough. If you live in a cold area or a humid one, your potatoes will take more flour. If they are newer potatoes, they will take more flour. I think it's best to take a piece of your dough when you think it's finished and before you roll it, cut it into an gnocchi shape and cook it in a small saucepan of water to see how the texture is, and whether you need to add more flour.

                      1. re: cheryl_h

                        I had a recipe from a friend of Italian heritage for gnocchi that contained no potatoes. They were very light little dumplings and we had them with the gorgonzola sauce. The sauce is wicked, it was just gorgonzola melted into heavy cream. I am going to have to search through my files for the recipe. I have not made them in a long time.

                        1. re: Candy

                          There are two other kinds of gnocchi that I know of; there may be more. One is made with semolina flour and milk and are a Roman specialty. The other is made from ricotta cheese. Was it one of those?

                          1. re: farmersdaughter

                            Gnocchi alla Romana are baked in a casserole. No sauce.

                            1. re: farmersdaughter

                              There are recipes for both in Classic Italian Cooking, I just happened to pick the first gnocchi recipe which has potatoes. As Robert Lauriston says, the semolina version is gnocchi alla romana and is baked. The ricotta and spinach version is gnocchi verdi and is served with sauce or broth.

                              Candy - I picked the potato gnocchi because of the sauce. How can you go wrong with gorgonzola, butter and cream? I just got some good gorgonzola today so I'm all set.

                              1. re: cheryl_h

                                I seem to remember Mario B. doing that sauce with a splash of grappa along the way. Talk about lily-gilding!

                              2. re: farmersdaughter

                                No, they were made with flour, and not semolina and they were boiled. They were very light. Come to think of it they may have had spinach in them too. I need to get my files out and look for it. Not ravioli nudi either.

                          2. I'm thinking about My Father's Fish Soup. I've made so many recipes from these books but never this one; I've haven't been blown away by various seafood soups and stews I've tried over the past few years; I'll be in a bathing suit in about five weeks and have no plans for a dinner party so I need to make something I can eat a lot of and this looks like it fills the bill.

                            I'm not going to be able to get to this until next weekend at the very earliest. Anyone interested in joining me?

                            Also, suggestions on how to post pictures here? I think this would be even more fun if people could show us a bit of process, but most importantly the finished dish.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JoanN

                              RE: pictures. I don't know if there's an easier way, but I upload mine onto Shutterfly.com. Then right click on the picture, click Properties, and cut and paste that address. For examples, I have pics of the dishes I've tried - two on the pasta thread (white clam sauce and bottarga sauce) , and one near the bottom on the meat thread (chicken with lemons).

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Photo Bucket is another free service which will provide URLS for your photos or videos.

                              2. I'm going to try a few fish recipes, because I've gone through quite a few of the meat recipes. I tried pasta fagioli, but I'm trying it again because I royally screwed up the last one (story in the soup post). I'd also like to try a few other soups, just because soup is good food. ;)

                                1. Sigh - don't have the book and won't have time before end of September but will watch with interest. Am interested in Marcella's nazi-esque tactics! Am very interested to know how exactly her recipes are followed by fellow 'hounds and how often improvisation happens and what comes about.

                                  Can we pass the recipes via email - would that mess with any copyright issues?

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: krissywats

                                    Technically yes. Here is a good explanation, better than I could do. Note that as a practical matter, it's impossible to enforce this kind of violation. More of an ethical issue than a legal one. That being said, I own this cookbook so feel free to email me to discuss.

                                    http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymy...

                                    1. re: farmersdaughter

                                      There's no copyright issue if you write your own version. You can't copyright a recipe per se, only a particular wording of it.

                                      There are some Hazan recipes online:

                                      http://www.dolcevita.com/cuisine/reci...

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

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        That is correct. My interpretation was that an exact wording was requested (PDF or word for word copy rather than a re-write). If one wants a lot of the recipes and the owner of the book doesn't want to re-type them in his or her own words, PDF would be the most likely option that would occur which is a violation.

                                    2. re: krissywats

                                      I just sent the Meatloaf recipe to another hound. If anyone else wants it, email me at rubeekiss@aol.com.

                                    3. I have three in mind for next weekend. Aquacotta (soup) which I adored eating in Florence, Drunken Pork Roast and Potato & Atrichoke Gratin (baby artichokes are in the market. Probably some roasted fruit with Marscapone for dessert. Of course, that is if I can round up some friends, otherwise just the Aquacotta (cooked water), Anyone Interested in one or all of these let me know.

                                      1. I'm planning to make Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables (Variation with Rosemary and Pancetta) and Coffee Ricotta Cream for dessert. I may try to fit in some more recipes later in the month, but I'm not sure what those will be.

                                        1. I’m thinking of making either the Pork Sausages with Red Cabbage or Pork Sausages with Smothered Onions and Tomatoes tonight. Both call for mild pork sausage containing no herbs or strong spices. I’ll try Whole Foods for the sausages or one of the Italian specialty shops.

                                          Anyone have experience with either of these recipes?

                                          1. Below are the recipes that I have bookmarked to try. I have alot of fresh tomatoes to use up, and I want to try a method that I've never attempted before (crespelle). Won't be able to make them all this month, but hope to make a few. Any tips based on experience are appreciated!

                                            Spinach and ricotta gnocchi
                                            Baked crespelle w/ spinach, prosciutto and parmesan filling
                                            Meatballs and tomatoes
                                            One of the finocchio dishes...maybe braised
                                            Panzanella
                                            One of the gelatos...probably black grape

                                            1. I have been making the Tuna Sauce with Tomatoes and Garlic (over whole-wheat spaghetti), for a unique reason - it's a great training food! I am in the midst of intense triathlon training, and this recipe is perfect - an efficient combination of lean protein, carbs, and a touch of good fats. (I doubt this is what Marcella had in mind!) It also keeps well for a few days of noshing, good for a single chef. It is such a simple recipe - tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, canned tuna - that I have been tempted to "decorate" it - but the first experiment, the addition of capers, was not a success in my opinion. I should just enjoy the simplicity, I think. At the risk of heresy, I should also be honest and admit that the second time, I skipped the expensive Italian tuna in olive oil and went for chunk light Chicken of the Sea. The difference was minimal - once the tuna is integrated into the tomato sauce, I'm not sure it's necessary to use expensive tuna (at least for a graduate student like me), as long as you use dark meat.

                                              This is why I love this cookbook - there are lots of sources for complex Italian recipes for a long Sunday afternoon of cooking, but Marcella takes the time to write down the simple recipes that most Italian home cooks just keep in their heads. It is one of the few cookbooks I read like a novel, just getting new ideas from the simple preparations and combinations of ingredients. I think it is going to make me a better cook even when I don't have the book in front of me!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: dubedo

                                                Trader Joe's tongol tuna is a good substitute for expensive Italian tuna in cooking. Texture's not as nice but the flavor's the same (quite different from American tuna). I'll pay the extra for salads, though.

                                                1. re: dubedo

                                                  Even though I don't have the book, I discovered I have a copy of this recipe and I love it too and have made it many times. I made it with whole wheat pasta also and not expensive tuna and we loved it.

                                                  My only issue was I wanted more sauce with the amount of pasta. Mainly because that sauce was so amazing! Who would think that garlic sauteed in olive oil and canned tomatoes with liquid added that cook for 25 minutes, then a bit of butter stirred in would result in a such a beautiful, flavorful sauce. I was amazed at how it turned out.

                                                  I too would love to try some variations but not sure where to start. Any ideas?

                                                2. Tonight I am making:
                                                  braised pork chops w/ tomatoes, cream & porcini
                                                  sauteed cabbage
                                                  mashed potatoes

                                                  Sunday night I will try the tuscan meat roll -- I have local organic ground beef defrosting now.
                                                  Suggestions anyone on sides? (I wish Marcella would tell you what to serve as sides, I like that in a cookbook!)