Pork Rib Ragu

pork ragusmall

One of the dividends from slow cooking is definitely the leftovers. Even if you’re simply reheating them, they can often be even better than the first time you served them.

Yesterday, I pulled from the fridge some slow-cooked pork ribs in smoked Spanish paprika sauce that we had on Sunday. On their own, there wasn’t enough left for two portions, so I decided to turn them into a ragu for pasta. (See my May 26th post for more about the ribs.)

For almost any rich, meaty sauce, my favorite variety of pasta is pappardelle. The name for these broad, flat noodles comes from the Italian verb “pappare,” which means “to gobble up.” Their heft and shape make them the perfect carrier for a thick ragu.

pork ragu3small

After skimming the congealed fat from the ribs, I removed the meat from the bones and shredded it, discarding any thick pieces of fat. I placed the meat and the sauce into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a little water and heated it over a low flame, with occasional stirring, for about 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, I also added some milk to the sauce for a creamier texture.

I then transferred the sauce to a skillet wide enough to accommodate the pasta and placed it over a low flame

I cooked the fresh pappardelle for 2 minutes in heavily salted water. Just before they reached the al dente stage, I transferred the pasta from the pot to the skillet with a spider-style strainer and tossed the noodles with the sauce for about 30 seconds to coat and finish cooking.

pork ragu2small

Off the heat, I added a handful of grated Romano and some parsley.

Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

Grilled Flank Steak


When we watched Mario Batali transform a simple flank steak to mouthwatering juiciness on his TV show “The Chew,” I had to make it.

The steak is seasoned first with salt and pepper and then rubbed with a paste of dried-porcini powder, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil. It’s then placed in a re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerated for at least an hour or even better over night.

I let the steak marinate for about 12 hours, taking it our of the refrigerator an hour or so before cooking to let it come to room temperature.

Because it was too cold for grilling outdoors, I opted for a two-burner pre-heated grill pan. Batali, who used a gas grill on the show, recommended cooking the steak with the grill lid closed for this particular cut of meat. To replicate this, I tented the steak with heavy-duty foil as it cooked for about 6 minutes per side on medium high.

To retain the meat’s juices, I let the steak rest for the recommended fifteen minutes before slicing it.


This had to be one of the juiciest and most flavorful flank steaks, I’ve ever had. The earthiness from the porcini powder was complemented by the spice from the red-chili flakes.

Batali used the steak as part of a sandwich that was sauced with a Parmesan fondue. As luscious as it looked, we decided to forego the sauce and the bread and chose to serve the steak accompanied with spinach sautéed with olive oil and garlic. Here’s a link to the recipe. Grilled Steak and Fondue Sandwich.

Some recipe tips:

  • I didn’t have any porcini powder, so I took a handful of dried porcini and ground them to a powder with a spice grinder. (Finally got to use that Magic Bullet that’s been in the back of the closet.)
  • You may also want to adjust the recipe’s amount of red-pepper flakes depending on the type you have on hand.
  • Finally, rather than smashing the garlic cloves to a paste, I grated ten with a rasp.

Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon, Valpolicella Ripasso, Cotes du Rhone

Baked Monkfish Roman Style


When friends ask me which style of Italian cooking I enjoy the most, I usually say “Roman.” It seems to meld the earthy richness of the north with the sultry spice of the south. My go-to book for Roman cooking is David Downie’s Cooking the Roman Way, and it is here where I found the recipe for today’s post: Martino al Forno, Monkfish Baked on a Bed of Lemony Potatoes. (The book is sadly out of print, but is currently available in Kindle format.)

The fish, coated with olive oil and breadcrumbs, is baked slowly for about 35 minutes on a bed of thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes dressed with olive oil, lemon, parsley, and fine breadcrumbs. What’s great about this dish is how the creamy, lemony potatoes highlight the rich buttery flavors of the monkfish, sometimes called “the poor man’s lobster.” It’s Roman cooking at its best.

I halved this recipe when I prepared it for two, using half of fish and potatoes called for, but slightly more than half measures of the other ingredients.

Martino Al Forno    Adapted from Cooking the Roman Way (Yields 4 servings)
2 pounds Monkfish fillets (Try to get fillets that are approximately equal in size and that are not too thin to ensure even cooking.)
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes washed, peeled, and sliced 1/8 inch thick. (Use a mandolin for evenly sliced potatoes.)
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 heaping Tbs of fine breadcrumbs (I only had seasoned Italian breadcrumbs on hand and they worked well.)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and mashed
4 heaping Tbs fresh Italian parsley minced (Be careful not to over mince the parsley as doing so leaves a lot of the herb’s flavor on the cutting board.)
1 lemon juiced (The next time I make this dish, I’ll also add some of the zest of the lemon to the potatoes.)


1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Rinse fillets, pat dry with paper towels, and place on a platter. A paper towel on top of the fish will keep them dry.

3. Place the peeled, sliced potatoes in an oven-proof baking dish and drizzle with 2 Tbs of the oil. Season with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Toss lightly to evenly coat. (Be careful not to tear the slices as you toss.) Sprinkle in 2Tbs of the bread crumb and toss again. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer.

4. Distribute the smashed garlic cloves evenly over the potatoes and sprinkle with a generous pinch of the parsley.

5. Drizzle the patted-dry fish fillets with 1Tbs of the olive oil and gently rub it into the fish. Sprinkle the fish with the remaining 2 Tbs of the breadcrumbs and turn the fillets to coat them evenly with the crumbs.


6. Place the fillets in the baking dish over the potatoes and the garlic. (I folded under the thin ends of the fillets to ensure even cooking.) Sprinkle any breadcrumbs that are left behind the platter that held the fish.

7. Sprinkle 1 Tbs of lemon juice over the fish and the potatoes and then sprinkle with small pinches of salt, pepper, and parsley.

8. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are tender on the inside and crisp on the edges.

9. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the fish. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil (1 Tbs) and the remaining lemon juice.

Serve immediately on heated plates.

Wine Pairing: Chilled Frascati, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling

Tomato Salad


Even when you have leftovers for dinner as we did last night, it’s nice to add something fresh to the menu. Some leftover pollo alla caccciatora was on the menu for supper yesterday and I wanted to bring something fresh to the table. Earlier in the day, I found some great tomatoes at the market and thought of a salad I often enjoyed while growing up.

Tomato Salad
4 or 5 ripe, yet still firm, tomatoes
Salt to taste
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
4 or 5 leaves fresh basil rolled and cut into strips
1 small ice cube

  1. Depending on their size, cut 4 or 5 tomatoes in quarters or eighths.
  2. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
  3. Drizzle with the olive oil.
  4. Add the oregano after rubbing it in your palms to release the flavor.
  5. Add the basil.
  6. Toss to coat.
  7. Add 1 small ice cube and refrigerate for at least an hour. The ice blends with the juices from the tomatoes to extend the dressing.

Toss before serving.

Pork Ribs with Smoked Paprika Sauce


For our Memorial Day get together, I was faced with having to make a main course to follow hot-dog appetizers. Somehow ribs came to mind; however, I didn’t think my Italian version of them braised in tomato sauce was a good option. I wanted something closer to barbecue, but I really don’t like most barbecue sauces.

Great Local Grown Ribs
Great Local Grown Ribs

Looking through my cookbooks, I found the answer in The Mediterranean Slow Cookerby Michele Scicolone: Pork Ribs with Smoked Paprika Sauce. In my opinion, these smokey, saucy ribs, cooked slowly on low for 6 to 8 hours in a sauce with sherry vinegar, onions, garlic and a generous touch of Spanish smoked paprika can stand up to any southern counterpart. (I would not attempt to substitute Hungarian paprika for the Spanish variety called for by the recipe.)

Rather than serving the ribs with the suggested chickpeas, I opted for that all American favorite, corn on the cob to keep with the holiday spirit.

Wine Pairing: Dry Lambrusco, Rijoa, Zinfandel

Ramp Frittata


I didn’t know what we were going to have for dinner last night until I walked through one of New York City’s premier farmers market in Union Square. As we walked from stand to stand, each with inviting displays of produce, I started to think of a lot of possibilities. But mid-way through the market, I saw a sign touting “the last ramps of spring.”

Ramps are an early springtime vegetable and are a type of wild leek. They have a garlic-like aroma but a rich onion flavor. They’re available for only a brief period in early spring and have become quite popular in restaurants specializing in seasonal cuisine.

I wanted a dish that would highlight their character and at first thought of a simple sauté served over spaghetti. But as we had had pasta the night before, I kept searching for a recipe. It wasn’t long before I found it: Puffy Ramp Frittata.

This is essentially a soufflé omelet, where egg whites are stirred into eggs beaten with the sautéed ramps. It’s started on top of the stove to set the eggs and finished under the broiler where the the whites help the omelet rise.

Served with a salad, some Italian flat bread, and a dry rosé from Provence, it was a perfect meal for a spring evening. Here’s a link to the recipe I used on Serious Eats.

Wine Pairing: Dry Rose, Sauvignon Blanc

Pollo alla Cacciatora Tuscan Style


I was recently gifted with a copy of Giuliano Bugialli’s The Fine Art of Italian Cooking. I haven’t read it yet, but thought I would try out one of his recipes. As I skimmed through the book, I found an interesting one for pollo alla cacciatora, chicken hunter’s style.

Most recipes for this popular dish use a heavier tomato sauce, as well as a couple of vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, and the like. Bugialli, however, presents a more austere Tuscan version that gets most of its flavor from woodsy herbs like rosemary and sage. And rather than tomatoes, the recipe calls for tomato paste, which when toasted a little gives the sauce a deeper, darker flavor.

I think this was one of the best versions of the dish I have ever had. We served it with some couscous and peas. Below is my edited version of the recipe.

Chicken alla cacciatora 
1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
1 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves
10 fresh leaves sage
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs imported tomato paste
1 1/2 cups hot water

  1. Cut the chicken into 16 pieces; coarsely chop the rosemary, sage, and garlic. (I used 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. Also be sure to coarsely chop the herbs and garlic so that they do not burn when sautéed in the oil.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven that is big enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Add the chopped herbs and garlic and sauté gently until lightly golden (10 to 12 minutes). (Be sure to keep your eye on the pot during this stage. I kept the garlic on top of the herbs to prevent burning and kept adjusting the heat to allow for a slow cooking of the ingredients.)
  3. Add the chicken and sauté over moderately high heat until golden all over (about 15 minutes). Add salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes.
  4. Lower the heat and pour in the wine. Let it evaporate very slowly (about 10 minutes), then add the bay leaf, tomato paste, and 1/2 cup of the water. (I stirred in the tomato paste making sure it was evenly distributed in the pot. I also turned the chicken pieces at this point to coat them with the sauce.)
  5. Cover the pan and let simmer very slowly for 20 minutes, adding more of the hot water if needed. (I turned the chicken pieces one or two times to ensure even cooking. I also found that I did not need any additional water.)
  6. At this point, the chicken should be cooked and there should be a small quantity of thick sauce. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the chicken and sauce to a serving dish. Serve hot. (I found a lot of fat on top of the sauce and skimmed off a good deal of it before plating the chicken.)

Bugiialli says this dish is even better when reheated.

Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, Sangiovese, Merlot




Spaghetti with Anchovies


It was a hectic day and I couldn’t go shopping for dinner. Luckily, I had some oil-packed anchovies and fresh, well almost fresh, parsley in the fridge. The pantry yielded a half box of spaghetti, garlic, and olive oil.

What to make was obvious: another dish from my childhood that I actually hated then but love now: pasta acciughe, or spaghetti with anchovies.

Spaghetti with Anchovies (Serves 2)
4 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
5 or 6 oil-packed anchovies
2 Tbs fresh Italian parsley
8 oz spaghetti
Fresh black pepper

  1. While the water starts to boil for the pasta, put the olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a pan and poach over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring and making sure the garlic takes on no color.
  2. Start cooking the pasta, according to package directions for al dente.
  3. Add the anchovies to the pan, smashing them with the back of a wooden spoon until they dissolve into the oil. Add 1 Tbs of the the parsley and cook for just a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. When the pasta is done, transfer it with tongs to the pan with the sauce. Add another tablespoon of parsley, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and toss to coat the pasta. If too dry, add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water.

Serve on warmed plates.

This dish is sometimes served with toasted breadcrumbs, which is fine if you want a heavier dish.

Another version of this dish can be found in Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza, Calzone. Here a link to the recipe online.

Wine Paring: Lacryma Christi Rosso, Nero d’Avola, Syrah

Fresh Tuna Steaks with Marsala and Mushrooms


Yesterday, I found some really good looking yellow-fin tuna steaks at the market. So when I got home, I scoured my cookbooks to look for a new recipe for these beauties. As I didn’t want it to be a late night, time was a deciding factor in my choice.


I turned to Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian, a great source for dishes that can be prepared in 45 minutes or less, and found just what I was looking for: “Fresh Tuna Steaks with Marsala and Mushrooms.”

It’s a recipe that takes 20 minutes from start to finish and yields a succulent dish, with the Marsala perfectly tying the knot between the meaty tuna and the earthy mushrooms.

Here’s a link to the recipe online.

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir. Look for one with no more than 13.5% alcohol.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs


If you had asked me a year ago what I thought of turkey meatballs, I probably would have said “Are you kidding?” But last night, I remembered we had about a pound and a half of ground turkey in the fridge and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

I have a pretty good collection of cookbooks, but none of them had a recipe for ground turkey other than the turkey meatloaf I made for brunch on Sunday. So, I searched the Internet and among a plethora of suggestions, one stood out: Turkey-Spinach Meatballs.

Now as an Italian-American growing up in Brooklyn, I’m no stranger to meatballs. My aunt would make them often for Sunday dinner and, on occasion, would sneak one, freshly fried and with a drizzle of sauce, to me before I had to go to mass. When I told her I couldn’t eat it before receiving communion, she’d say “It’s so little and so good, God won’t mind.”

Indeed they were good, and it’s her recipe that I often follow when I prepare them. But I had to get rid of the turkey.

The recipe I found was on the Bon Appétit website and it also included a recipe for a marinara sauce that was also quite different from my own. But as long as I was going for the meatballs, I thought I’d make the sauce as well. Here’s a link to the site: Turkey-Spinach Meatballs


I have to admit that these were some of the best meatballs I have ever had. What surprised me about even more about how good they were is that rather than being fried, they were broiled. Soft and succulent, napped in a slightly spicy rich tomato sauce, they’re a perfect weeknight meal served either with pasta or, as we did, with good Italian bread.

My only deviations from the recipe were that I used slightly less oil than called for in the sauce and used crushed rather than whole tomatoes. I also used 87% fat turkey for the meatballs and may have broiled them a bit longer than specified.

Wine Pairing: Chianti Classico