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Mike Isabella's pepperoni sauce recipe

sherriberry Apr 13, 2011 04:29 PM

It is now available online @washingtonpost.com/recipes-there was a blurb about it today's Food section.

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  1. goodhealthgourmet RE: sherriberry Apr 13, 2011 09:03 PM

    link here:

    1. huiray RE: sherriberry Apr 14, 2011 03:56 AM

      ...and as an aside I would imagine if one asked for "pepperoni" or a "pepperoni pizza" in Italy you would get puzzled looks or get something other than what you expected to get in the US.

      12 Replies
      1. re: huiray
        josey124 RE: huiray Apr 14, 2011 06:44 AM

        Still confusing for somebody who came from Europe years ago.

        Uhm, so it is salami Mike used? Or a chili pepper?

        1. re: josey124
          huiray RE: josey124 Apr 14, 2011 07:02 AM

          Yes, Mike Isabella used a kind of salami.

          From the Wikipedia article: "To order in Italy a very similar food to what in America is called "pepperoni" one would request salamino piccante..."

          1. re: huiray
            josey124 RE: huiray Apr 14, 2011 01:03 PM


            1. re: huiray
              pdxgastro RE: huiray May 7, 2011 10:02 AM

              I don't recall ever seeing anything like Pepperoni in Italy. Even if it's a salamino piccante, it's not dyed that awful red color.

              1. re: pdxgastro
                huiray RE: pdxgastro May 7, 2011 12:23 PM

                Wiki didn't say identical. It said similar. It has already been said on this thread that there ISN'T this exact stuff in Italy called "Pepperoni" in the USA.

                psst....It's an Italian-American foodstuff.

            2. re: josey124
              goodhealthgourmet RE: josey124 Apr 14, 2011 11:06 AM

              yeah, when they were raving about it on the show i was wondering whether the sauce was actually made of American pepperoni or chili peppers...until i saw this post:

              if they were peppers, he wouldn't call them "pepperoni" to an American audience. and when he said to cook it until it was "soft and moist" i knew he meant American pepperoni.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                huiray RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 14, 2011 11:25 AM

                From that bites.today.com article (posted Mar 31) cited in the CH thread he said: "When I saw the pepperoni, I thought, ‘This is great with pork, I mean, it IS pork.’".

                1. re: huiray
                  goodhealthgourmet RE: huiray Apr 14, 2011 11:29 AM

                  well then, that would certainly clear things up! i didn't read that article because LW generously transcribed the pertinent recipe info into the thread for us, and i didn't have much of a desire to read anything more about Isabella ;)

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  The Drama Queen RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 14, 2011 01:08 PM

                  Pepperoni is the sausage; pepperoncini (pep-er-own-CHEE-nee) are the peppers or red pepper flakes. Italians are very big on pepperoncini. They go into almost everything.

                  1. re: The Drama Queen
                    huiray RE: The Drama Queen Apr 14, 2011 01:46 PM

                    Wiki also says this: "The term pepperoni is a corruption of peperoni, the plural of peperone, the Italian word for pepper (the vegetable, not the spice)."

                    There's also this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepperon...


                    1. re: The Drama Queen
                      goodhealthgourmet RE: The Drama Queen Apr 14, 2011 02:11 PM


                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                        huiray RE: goodhealthgourmet Apr 15, 2011 07:17 AM


              2. t
                toncasmo RE: sherriberry Apr 15, 2011 10:02 AM

                did he serve it on short ribs? i don't remember
                this says good on chicken

                1 Reply
                1. re: toncasmo
                  huiray RE: toncasmo Apr 15, 2011 01:57 PM

                  Braised pork shoulder.
                  (Plus roasted cabbage & turnips)

                2. chefhound RE: sherriberry Apr 22, 2011 12:12 AM

                  Has anyone attempted to make this sauce besides me?

                  I used the ingredients in the Washington Post recipe but I did it in the pressure cooker with the pork shoulder in the pot at the same time. Figured I'd get the sauce flavor cooked right into the pork.

                  Frankly, I don't know what Gail Simmons was going on about. It was fine but nothing spectacular. The fennel seeds were lost - couldn't taste them at all, the texture was kind of gritty. When I tasted it, right after I made it, I thought it tasted like the sauce on Chef Boyardee ravioli. It got better the next day, when it started to taste more like a ragu. But again, nothing to write home about.

                  I don't think preparing it in the pressure cooker with the pork shoulder instead of the stovetop method in the recipe affected my final product. I skimmed off a fair amount of fat because the pepperoni and the pork shoulder produced a lot of fat. And the recipe doesn't say anything about straining the sauce, so the texture of pureed meat is what you would expect - a bit mealy. My sauce did look like the picture so I'm pretty sure I did it right but if my sauce is what Mike Isabella served to the judges, I don't know what the fuss was all about.

                  Anyone who has tried this recipe, please weigh in.

                  24 Replies
                  1. re: chefhound
                    jgg13 RE: chefhound Apr 22, 2011 08:24 AM

                    We made it at home and it wasn't quite what I was expecting based on the reactions on the show, but about what I would have expected had I just seen the recipe. OTOH I commented that he probably used much higher quality ingredients and not stuff like a pepperoni stick from the local grocery store.

                    We used it on a pizza with slices of fresh mozz & asparagus and that was pretty good I have to say.

                    1. re: jgg13
                      chefhound RE: jgg13 Apr 22, 2011 02:53 PM

                      I used some pretty fancy ingredients. I got imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes, which I believe were from a specific region in Italy ( just happened to see them in the store) and pepperoni from a specialty sausage store as well as Whole Foods. So all my ingredients came from some decent sources, not a generic chain supermarket.

                      The sauce wasn't bad but I just can't understand what got Gail Simmons so excited. I'm glad someone else tried the recipe and was also surprised by the result. Hopefully someone will try it at his restaurant and report back?

                      1. re: chefhound
                        bob96 RE: chefhound Apr 22, 2011 03:34 PM

                        The Sunday ragu I grew up on usually included, in addition to pork and beef braciole, meatballs, pork ribs, beef chuck, and fresh sausage, chunks of locally made hot and sweet "dry sausage" or salame from the butcher or pork store. Something transformative happens to the dry sausage when cooked for hours in the ragu. I'd encourage anyone making a classic ragu/gravy to add to other meats some 2-inch chunks of either hot or sweet, high quality dried sausage, which is leaner, less processed, and has pork cut into larger chunks than indistrial pepperoni. Incidentally, in Italian peperone/i (one p) means simply pepper/s. Peperoncino/i means chili pepper/s, fresh or dried.

                        1. re: bob96
                          carbonaraboy RE: bob96 Apr 23, 2011 03:05 AM

                          I agree with you, Bob. I've been making a simple pasta sauce with small cubes of high quality dry salami for many years -- my daughter is addicted to the stuff. It doesn't have to cook for long, either. It's also very good long cooked in ragu as well. You can't wrong if you use good quality salume. A perfectly good lower cost/widely available version is Boar's Head Bianco D'Oro.

                          I haven't tried pureeing it into the sauce a la Mikey.

                        2. re: chefhound
                          Joayo RE: chefhound Apr 22, 2011 03:44 PM

                          I only use San Marzano tomatoes when making any tomato based sauce. They are plum tomatoes. Sweet and less acidic then fresh tomatoes or other canned varieties. I couldn't imagine making a red sauce with anything other than San Marzano tomatoes.

                          I made the pepperoni sauce before reading the WaPo article solely based on the Today article which didn't include measurements. The sauce was definitely not what I expected. The ingredients were similar enough to my own red sauce recipe that I took some liberties including adding chopped celery and carrot.

                          My advice is add the ingredients to your liking and taste. The Washington Post articles recipe is a guess....one that is just as good as yours.

                          Im making my take on the sauce tomorrow. Everyone loved it last time around served with pork tenderloin. If they do again I'll come back with a recipe.

                          1. re: Joayo
                            chefhound RE: Joayo Apr 22, 2011 11:26 PM

                            Was the Washington Post recipe a guess? I thought they got it from Mike Isabella.

                            1. re: Joayo
                              UncleRemus RE: Joayo May 8, 2011 10:37 AM

                              What if I'm a po boy... and can't afford San Marzano's? Am I sol? Apparently.

                              1. re: UncleRemus
                                bob96 RE: UncleRemus May 9, 2011 11:21 PM

                                For this sauce, you do not need san marzanos: a good quality (Cento, for one) whole peeled tomato imported from Italy would be fine; crush the tomatoes in their juice by hand in a large bowl before adding

                            2. re: chefhound
                              Lori D RE: chefhound Apr 25, 2011 10:59 AM

                              His restaurant is not open yet. According to the Web site - "late spring." Judging from the one month old pictures on the site, I doubt that it will be that soon.

                          2. re: chefhound
                            LurkerDan RE: chefhound Apr 22, 2011 03:53 PM

                            I don't know if the difference was in your preparation, proportions, or ingredients, but given the judges reaction, it seems more likely that the sauce he made was quite different than yours, rather than the judges were smoking crack. ;-)

                            But I'd certainly be curious to hear what visitors to his restaurant have to say.

                            1. re: LurkerDan
                              huiray RE: LurkerDan Apr 22, 2011 07:07 PM

                              I get the impression that people posting above probably altered the recipe or did something different from the recipe as given in the WaPo, anyway..... (I thought it was usual for one to follow a recipe exactly the first time, THEN alter it the next time if desired etc?)

                              Heh. It's also possible the WaPo caught Bravomenuitis.

                              1. re: huiray
                                jgg13 RE: huiray Apr 22, 2011 07:20 PM

                                We followed it exactly. As I said, the only possible difference (other than it not actually being the right recipe) is perhaps quality of ingredients, and even then that's mainly going to be the case of the pepperoni

                                1. re: jgg13
                                  piccola RE: jgg13 Apr 23, 2011 03:46 AM

                                  I was under the impression that the recipe published was an approximation of Mikey's actual recipe. Didn't he say something about not having taken notes or measurements while cooking?

                                  1. re: piccola
                                    jgg13 RE: piccola Apr 23, 2011 09:39 AM

                                    No idea. BTW if I didn't mention it above, it makes a fantastic pizza sauce. Just note that it's fairly salty so keep the toppings to stuff that'll mesh with that.

                                    1. re: piccola
                                      ahack RE: piccola Apr 23, 2011 03:42 PM

                                      They should just get the recipe from Richard Blais' notebook if Isabella didn't write it down.

                                      1. re: ahack
                                        chefhound RE: ahack Apr 23, 2011 07:03 PM

                                        The recipe is not that amazing. It couldn't have come from Richard's brilliant mind!

                                        1. re: chefhound
                                          soupkitten RE: chefhound Apr 24, 2011 06:29 PM

                                          sorry, but if you cooked the sauce in a pressure cooker. . . you didn't follow the recipe. if you haven't prepared the recipe correctly, you shouldn't actually be repeating over and over that the recipe is crap, the TC judges are incompetent/high/what have you, etc. to comment fairly on a recipe you need to follow the recipe as written, imo.

                                          1. re: soupkitten
                                            chefhound RE: soupkitten Apr 25, 2011 03:48 PM

                                            If you had actually read my posts, you would know that I did not say that the recipe is crap or that the TC judges are incompetent. I said that the sauce was fine but not a big wow. The recipe was also attempted by jgg13 who posted above that the result was not what was expected by the TC judges' reactions.

                                            I realize that I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I don't think that my method could drastically change the flavors. I used exactly the ingredients called for in the recipe.

                                            I'm not sure why you are so upset by this. Are you actually Mike Isabella or one of his friends? I'm just asking others who have attempted the recipe to offer their opinions. The only other person posting here who has attempted this recipe is jgg13, who has said that the result was not what was expected based on the reactions of the judges.

                                            I don't think it's unfair to comment on a recipe if you didn't change any of the ingredients. I'm not an inexperienced cook. I know how to figure out what's going on in a recipe and adapt if needed. Since I didn't change a single ingredient, I didn't cook it for a short period of time, I don't think it's unfair at all. It's not like I changed the ingredients and formed little balls of sauce and deep-fried them.

                                            1. re: chefhound
                                              jgg13 RE: chefhound Apr 25, 2011 04:03 PM

                                              And to be fair, I still thought it was good - it just wasn't quite what I expected. It just didn't seem like something that'd make a TC judge scorch their shorts. At the same time, I have no doubt in my mind that Mike Isabella (or any TC cheftestant) could make it better than we did in my kitchen.

                                              1. re: chefhound
                                                soupkitten RE: chefhound Apr 25, 2011 05:07 PM

                                                lmao! for the record, i think mike i is a prick (no, i don't know him). it doesn't mean his recipe sucks. it looks exactly like the simple kind of sauce a line cook would throw together quickly for a staff meal, with the stuff on hand at a restaurant. sometimes these sauces are pretty average, but a talented cook+excellent ingredients will often turn out something that's awfully delicious, using just a hot burn-pan and decent technique.

                                                if you don't think your method changed anything about the recipe, and you also think it's fair to completely change a recipe's cooking method, just as long as you don't change any ingredients, i don't really know how to respond-- we just disagree. i guess i'll just anxiously await your review of "zuni roasted chicken" after you attempt to execute it in a crock pot rather than a hot oven.

                                                1. re: soupkitten
                                                  chefhound RE: soupkitten Apr 25, 2011 05:30 PM

                                                  I'm afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree.

                                                  I have stated several times that I don't think the recipe sucks. I've said over and over again that it was good, just not mind-blowingly fantastic.

                                                  If you think that simmering on a stove top for 45 minutes and cooking in a pressure cooker is going to produce a drastically different result, what can I say? The pressure cooker just speeds up the time - it produces a similar result as long-simmering, just in a shorter period.

                                                  Maybe you should attempt the recipe. I eagerly await your thoughts once you've tasted the sauce.

                                  2. re: LurkerDan
                                    chefhound RE: LurkerDan Apr 22, 2011 11:48 PM

                                    I followed the recipe pretty closely with regard to the ingredients and proportions. The only thing I did differently was to prepare it in a pressure cooker with the pork shoulder, as I had posted above. I don't think that preparing the recipe this way instead following the stove top method would drastically alter the final result. The ingredients and proportions were the same and it was cooked for longish period and then pureed, as per the recipe.

                                    I don't know how far off it could be, considering that I didn't make any changes to the recipe except for the cooking method. I don't think that cooking it on the stove top for 45 mins. I think that's what the recipe called for, and cooking it for an hour in a pressure cooker would yield a drastically different result. I also don't believe that cooking the pork shoulder in the sauce would affect it much. I took the pork out and pureed the sauce as per the recipe.

                                    I realize that I cooked it for longer than suggested in the recipe (because I wanted to get the pork shoulder done) but I figured that since the pressure cooker evaporates less liquid, the extra cooking time would reduce the liquid about the same amount as cooking it on the stove top.

                                    Anyway, as jgg13 said, it just wasn't what I expected based on the reactions on the show. It wasn't bad at all, just wasn't a huge wow.

                                    1. re: chefhound
                                      kmcarr RE: chefhound Apr 25, 2011 08:00 AM

                                      Cooking in a pressure cooker vs. stove top can make a significant difference. The temperature in the pressure cooker will be higher than in a vessel not under pressure; the temperature is limited by the boiling point of the liquid. I have been told many times that cooking in a pressure cooker tends to "deaden" or "flatten" flavors because of the higher temp and you need to adjust for this, usually by adding some acid after the food comes out of the pressure cooker.

                                      And I can't imagine that the pork shoulder didn't add considerable porkiness to the flavor of the sauce, altering it from the profile of Mike I's. I don't think it's fair to knock the recipe when you made a couple of significant alterations to the original.

                                      1. re: kmcarr
                                        chefhound RE: kmcarr Apr 25, 2011 04:07 PM

                                        You may be right about the pressure cooker flattening the flavors, I don't really know - the pressure cooker is a newish thing for me. So far, everything I've made in the pressure cooker has been great.

                                        Mike Isabella served his pepperoni sauce with braised pork shoulder. Considering the time constraints, I wonder if he used a pressure cooker. There's always a shot of Blais with the pressure cooker - I wonder if Mike used one too? Maybe he cooked the sauce and the pork shoulder together as I did. It just made sense to me to do it that way. If Mike braised his pork shoulder separately, how did he season it? What did he braise it in?

                                        I'm not knocking the recipe - it was pretty good - I just want to know why this dish got such reviews. Maybe I will try it again and follow the instructions to a T but jgg13 did attempt the recipe exactly and wasn't wowed either.

                                2. c
                                  celfie RE: sherriberry Apr 25, 2011 11:00 AM

                                  i have a funny feeling that food made by Mike Isabella is probably a lot better than that made by home cooks

                                  1. dacfood RE: sherriberry Apr 25, 2011 07:34 PM

                                    I just made the recipe as per the washington post recipe and it came out well but I wouldn't call it fantastic. I'd have to try it with something, like some pork shoulder or chicken, to really rate it. On its own and with some fresh baked bread it was good. My main small criticism is that it was pretty close to too salty. That could be the pepperoni I used though I'd guess anytime you dump a pound of pepperoni into a sauce you're going to have significant salt.

                                    In searching for comments on the recipe I noticed it is on the Graffiato web site, http://bit.ly/fo7eNM. That recipe is close to the Post's only it is scaled down (for example, only 6 oz of pepperoni) and it calls for a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar at the end; that could certainly change the taste. It also calls for a teaspoon of salt which I can't imagine is needed.

                                    I'm certainly interested in trying it at Graffiato when it opens. I'd like to see how the taste and texture differ if at all.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: dacfood
                                      LurkerDan RE: dacfood Apr 26, 2011 07:57 AM

                                      I imagine the quality/type of pepperoni one uses would make a drastic difference.

                                      1. re: LurkerDan
                                        dacfood RE: LurkerDan Apr 26, 2011 01:16 PM

                                        So what are your, or other people's, thoughts on a top quality pepperoni? What are the discerning qualities? Certainly nothing pre sliced (fwiw, I did slice my own for the preparation of the recipe). Any particular brands, types, or shops that you'd recommend?

                                        1. re: dacfood
                                          carbonaraboy RE: dacfood Apr 26, 2011 04:20 PM

                                          Will you all stop thinking about the ingredient as pepperoni and start thinking about it as high quality/designer dry salami? All will become clear when you do.

                                          1. re: carbonaraboy
                                            dacfood RE: carbonaraboy Apr 27, 2011 09:24 AM

                                            Perhaps the recipe title and ingredient list misled us. :)

                                            So what brand, purveyor, type, etc. of high quality/designer dry salami do you suggest? Or for that matter, I'd like to hear thoughts on what anyone thinks would work best as the meat component of this recipe. I don't want to devolve into what the difference is, if any, but I would like suggestions on exactly what people think would work best and where to find it.


                                            1. re: dacfood
                                              carbonaraboy RE: dacfood Apr 28, 2011 06:52 PM

                                              See my post above -- for everyday sauce, I sauce Boar's Head bianco d'oro. I've also used this, but it's expensive so limited to holiday time:


                                              I also have used the very dry concentrated form of chorizo, which makes it a whole different beast, but very exotic. There's a whole bunch at:


                                              Get the ones that are fully cured, highly dried, and ready to eat.

                                              1. re: carbonaraboy
                                                dacfood RE: carbonaraboy May 2, 2011 10:12 AM

                                                thanks for the suggestions!

                                            2. re: carbonaraboy
                                              jgg13 RE: carbonaraboy May 3, 2011 02:18 PM

                                              That's basically what I meant when I said that we just used grocery store pepperoni and that was likely to make a big difference.

                                      2. girloftheworld RE: sherriberry May 1, 2011 07:04 AM

                                        girls girls You are both pretty.. stop!
                                        First. Mike is not going give his recipe away so we will never know what the judges actually tasted that night. Second if a recipe isn't followed exact it is no longer the "same" recipe.
                                        example my Satan Potatoes my Aunt begged for the recipe she made them then asked why hers didnt taste the same...well she used cheap cheddar cheese...skim milk instead of cream, black pepper instead of white.. melted things in the microwave instead of bringing them to a boil on the stove... No longer the same.

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