Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cavatelli with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

Last week I was in the mood for a hearty, old world pasta dish with lots of zip. I found the recipe for broccoli rabe and pancetta in an old Food & Wine magazine. I decided to add it to cavatelli (aka 'gavadeels'). Very tasty and very filling. The bitterness of the rabe and the saltiness of the pancetta made for a great pasta topping. No other herbs or spices needed.

You're working with two pots of water, so to avoid any confusion I've labeled them as Pot A and Pot B.


1 lb package frozen cavatelli
2 lbs broccoli rabe, cut into 2-inch lengths, thick stems discarded
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, sliced 1/8 inch thick and cut into tiny cubes
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pot (Pot A), start to bring 4 quarts of salted water and one tablespoon olive oil to a boil. This will be for the cavatelli - do not add cavatelli yet, as it cooks quickly. The oil is added to prevent pasta from sticking.

In another large saucepan (Pot B), bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water. Wipe out the saucepan.

Add two tablespoons olive oil and pancetta to saucepan (Pot B) and cook over moderately low heat, stirring often, until the pancetta is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

At this point, you will add the cavatelli to the large pot (Pot A) of boiling water, cook for 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic to pancetta (Pot B) and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the pancetta, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain cavatelli when done, add to a large bowl, mix with broccoli rabe and pancetta.

Serves 4

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pork Chops Italiano

Whether you're grilling, pan frying or shaking and baking, pork chops always make for a nice meal. My favorite way of preparing chops is marinating, then baking or grilling. Marinades always work well with pork chops. They add lots of great flavor and your chops won't end up dried or leathery. You want to be sure to let the chops marinate for at least 2-4 hours.

One of my go-to marinades is Italian dressing. It's loaded with spices and herbs and is available in a nice variety, from light and creamy to zesty and robust. It works well with pork, chicken and fish.

Soy sauce also makes for a terrific marinade base. You can then season the soy sauce with all different kinds of spices and herbs and take the flavor in all kinds of tasty directions. Some spices that I like to add for pork are ginger, allspice, honey, sesame oil and brown sugar (more on that in another post).

For this recipe you'll want to use an oil-based Italian dressing (not Creamy Italian). To help kick it up a bit, I like to top the chops with some thin sliced onions and roasted red peppers. Serves well with rice, noodles or couscous. And don't forget the applesauce!


4-6 chops (your choice of thickness)
1 bottle of oil-based Italian salad dressing (not creamy Italian)
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 jar roasted red peppers, sliced

Pierce pork chops with a fork to allow dressing to soak through. Place chops in a plastic baggie, pour dressing over chops and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours.
Heat oven to 350º. Remove chops from marinade, making sure that some marinade stays on the chops. Place chops in a 13x9 sprayed baking dish. Top chops with thin slices of onion and roasted red peppers. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Gently puncture the foil with a fork in a few spots to allow steam to escape. Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes, depending on thickness of your chops. Thinner chops will be done at about 35-45 minutes, thicker chops will take longer, around 60 plus minutes. Chops will cook faster without aluminum covering, but will lose moisture and may end up dry. Gauge timing and method to your likeness, just be sure to check chops accordingly and make sure that chops are no longer pink inside.

* The Italian dressing adds plenty of flavor, so adding the onions and /or peppers is not necessary of you're not a fan of either taste.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grandmom Dora's Meatball Stew

It's the dead of winter, cabin fever is kicking in, and everyone seems to be singing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside.' For those of you living up here in the northeast, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's been a BRUTAL winter so far, and we're only a few weeks in! What better time of year to enjoy a nice, warm, hearty meal?

One dish that we always turn to is Meatball Stew. This recipe comes from my wife's grandmother, Dora D'Ottaviano. This dish is one of her many specialties, and one that my wife would forever brag about. We've been making this dish on our own for quite a few years now. It makes for a nice Sunday meal, can be cooked in either a stove-top pot or a slow cooker* and goes great with a nice glass of wine or beer and a loaf of crusty Italian bread.


6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 16-oz package frozen peas and carrots
1 29-oz can tomato sauce
1 can (29 oz.) of water (use the tomato sauce can to measure)
1 beef boullion cube
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional spices - chili powder, crushed red pepper)
1-lb cooked meatballs, rolled small

In a large pot, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil, add cooked meatballs. Remove pot from heat. Add tomato sauce, boullion cube plus one can of water. Sauce and water should cover the meatballs by about 2 inches. Return to heat, bring sauce to a boil. Add peas and carrots and potatoes, stir. Bring to a boil again. Add salt and pepper and optional spices to taste. Cover slightly and simmer slowly for about 1-1/2 hours, or until potatoes are soft.

*Note - allow a good 6+ hours if using a slow cooker, as the potatoes take a while to get soft when slow-cooked.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Eve Recap/Baked Orange Roughy, Italian Style

Happy New Year and welcome to 2010! I thought it would be appropriate to start of the new year of posts with a nice little recap of my favorite end-of-year dinner, the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.

My family has been celebrating this tradition for as long as I could remember, and of course many years before that. While we still stick with many of the traditional dishes (baccalá soup, whitefish, smelts, stuffed calamari, fried shrimp), we have been slowly introducing some more modern dishes to the line-up. My brother and his wife are always good for a wild card dish, and this year they didn't disappoint with pan-seared scallops. Unbelievable!

I'm usually the one responsible for crab cakes, but this year we went with Bobby Chez crab cakes (very good, by the way!). Instead, I was given orange roughy duty. If you're not familiar with orange roughy, it's a very flaky fish, similar to tilapia or flounder. It's got a very mild taste, so it's a good dish for those who aren't into a real 'fishy' dish. I did some research and found a recipe for 'Baked Orange Roughy, Italian Style' at It makes a nice, flavorful parmesan-garlic based coating. I decided to give it a try and I'm happy to say it was a home run! Everyone enjoyed it and I've already been given the honors for next year as well. The recipe is very simple (it will also work very well with flounder and tilapia), and I liked the fact that the recipe calls for the fish to be baked instead of fried (believe me, the deep fryer was in high gear for most of the other dishes that night).

Below is the recipe for 4 servings, but be sure to check the original link if you want to adjust the serving sizes/measurements.


1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 pound orange roughy fillets
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Coat a medium baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a shallow bowl, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic powder, and salt.
Brush both sides of orange roughy fillets with butter, and dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Arrange fillets in a single layer in the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with parsley.
Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.