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Apr 13, 2011 04:29 PM

Mike Isabella's pepperoni sauce recipe

It is now available online was a blurb about it today's Food section.

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    1. ...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

        Still confusing for somebody who came from Europe years ago.

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

        1. re: josey124

          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

              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

                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

              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

                From that 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

                  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

                  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

                    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:


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

                1 Reply
                1. re: toncasmo

                  Braised pork shoulder.
                  (Plus roasted cabbage & turnips)

                2. 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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                          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 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

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

                            1. re: Joayo

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

                              1. re: UncleRemus

                                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

                              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

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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

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

                                      1. re: ahack

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

                                        1. re: chefhound

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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

                                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

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