18 Reasons

The 12 days of Natale, recipes for the Italian holiday table. Day 1: Timballo di pasta

Holiday cheer is uncharacteristically late in our household this year. Decorations just appeared this morning and the tree is yet to be trimmed-or purchased, for that matters. I figured I can at least be timely with gifting. My gift to all of you, the marvelous audience who has supported me from the inception of my teaching career and still cheers me every step of the way, will be a recipes every day between here and Christmas to give an Italian flair to the table of your winter holidays.

From the rapid and simple to the lengthy and laborious, these dishes are born from the marriage of traditions and creativity always at work in my Italian kitchen in California and they are the flavors without which the joy of Christmas just does not taste as it should.

Let's start the journey with timballo di pasta alla napoletana, an elaborate pie filled with egg pasta in a richly flavored ragout. It was part of last Sunday night's program at 18 Reasons and I posted a picture of it on instagram. I got so many requests for the recipes, it became the inspiration for these series of posts, thus the obvious choice for day 1.

This stunning dish shows up in many different incarnations in Neapolitan cuisine. I chose this version because it houses both animals found in Italian holiday meals: the pig and the chicken. The chicken moves sideways, plucking the last crumbs, making way for the pig that forges ahead, undeterred symbol of renewal and the advent of a new season.

Enjoy and share.

 


Timballo di pasta alla napoletana

Neapolitan style pasta pie

 

for a 9 to 10" spring form

for the shell

400 grams flour

200 grams butter

3 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

 

for the filling

1/2 cup dried porcini

1 small onion

1 small carrot

1 small celery stalk

2 mild Italian sausages

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms

salt and pepper to taste

lard (or olive oil)

1/4 cup pistachios

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup marsala

1/2 cup chicken livers

1/4” thick ham slice

1.5 quarts whole milk

3 tablespoon flour

3 tablespoon butter

1 pound egg tagliolini (or other egg pasta)

1.5 cups grated parmigiano

 

Make the dough for the shell by mixing the flour, diced butter, 2 eggs, salt and sugar. Work quickly. Divide it into 1/3 and 2/3 giving each piece a thick disc shape and let rest for about an hour wrapped in the fridge.

Soak the porcini in boiling water. Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery. Take the sausages out of the casing and crumble it with a fork. Clean the mushrooms and slice them thinly. Strain the porcini and set the soaking water aside. Chop them roughly.

In a sautèe pan heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of lard. Add the onion, carrot and celery with the cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt. Soften them until golden, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the sausages and mushrooms. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes over lively heat, stirring them often to ensure they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the sausages and mushrooms are cooking, chop the pistachios finely and add half of them to the sausages and mushrooms.

Deglaze everything with half the marsala and when the alcohol no longer smells acrid, adjust salt and pepper, transfer to a large bowl and set aside

Wash the chicken livers well with water and vinegar, rinse them and dry them carefully with paper towels. Generously season them with salt and pepper. In a skillet over lively heat, brown them in 3 tablespoons of very hot lard.

Deglaze with the remaining marsala. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, until the livers are fairly firm to the touch and slightly pink inside. If they seem too dry during the cooking process, add small amounts of hot water to moisten. Chop them roughly and add them to the sausages and mushrooms.

Dice the ham quite finely and add it to the chicken livers, sausages and mushrooms. Set everything aside.

To make the béchamel, start by heating the milk.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, toast the 3 tablespoons of flour for about 2 to 3 minutes, whisking it continuously.

Still whisking, add the 3 tablespoons of butter in it and cook for about 5 minutes into a golden and fragrant roux.

Slowly whisk in the hot milk, pouring it into a thin stream. Continue whisking over medium heat until the sauce starts thickening. It will come to a boil and then shrink back as it thickens.

Cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, never letting up on the whisking. Now taste it: you should not detect flour, if you do, cook the sauce a little longer. Adjust salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Line the bottom of the spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper of the same diameter as the pan. Brush the sides of the pan with butter and dust them with flour. Move around to ensure they are well coated in flour then shake off the excess.

Roll out the two discs of dough to about 1/4”. Use the largest one to line the pan. Place the smallest on a plate and put them both back in the refrigerator.

Cook the pasta VERY al dente in salted boiling water, about 3 to 4 minutes less than the suggested cooking time.

Drain loosely and transfer to a bowl. Dress with the meat sauce, 2/3 of the béchamel and half the grated parmigiano. Toss well and pour into the spring form pan. Cover with the smaller disc.

Seal and crimp all along the edges of the pie. Whisk the remaining egg with 3 tablespoons of cold water and use it to brush the top of the pie. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in a 350˚F preheated oven.

Let stand for 10 minutes before springing it out of the form. Serve while still piping hot with the extra béchamel, grated parmigiano and pistachios on the side.

Brasato in red wine part II

Remember my musings on loss and sadness last week and how I assuaged them by braising meat? First of all, sorry about the whining.  I swear I am fine and thank you so for letting me exorcise demons on the page. I was touched by how many reached out to me. Once again, food, family, friend proved to be my all-healing holy trinity. The brasato was every bite as soothing as needed for my passing blues. Its powers, heightened by sharing its consumption, kept on gifting in different guises as I re-purposed it into a pasta sauce first and then into meatballs.

Those who come to my classes know that one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is re-purpose leftovers. I have actually taught 2 series of classes at 18 Reasons on the subject.

Until another leftover class makes it on the docket, I am sharing the two dishes that gave my brasato a second and a third life.

Rigatoni al sugo di brasato Rigatoni with braised beef sauceRigatoni al brasato

for 4 to 6 people 1 small yellow onion 1/2 tablespoon lard or olive oil 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 6 slices brasato 1/2 cup dry marsala (or sherry or madera) 1/2 cup pureed vegetable sauce from brasato 1 pound box of rigatoni (or other short ribbed pasta of your choice) grated pecorino (optional)

Slice the onion thinly and soften it in the lard heated in a skillet, with the zest and a generous pinch of salt. Continue cooking over medium low heat until the onion starts turning beige, adding a bit of water if necessary.

In the meantime dice the brasato slices quite small and add to the colored onions. Turn up the heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Deglaze with the marsala.

When the smell of the wine has gone from pungent to sweet, add the pureed sauce and simmer everything for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in a generous pot of salted boiling water until very al dente. Strain it with a colander and transfer it into the skillet. Finish cooking it in the brasato sauce adding 2 to 3 spoonfuls of cooking water and a splash of olive oil for sheen.

Serve hot with the grated pecorino on the side.

 

Polpette di brasato Brasato meatballs

no spaghetti here, just great meatballs

for 6 to 8 people 2 slices day old bread milk for soaking the bread 1/2 pound leftover brasato 2 slices prosciutto 1/4 pound ground veal 1/4 pound ground pork 1 small handful parsley leaves 1 egg + 1 yolk 1 tablespoons grated parmigiano grated zest of half lemon nutmeg to taste salt and pepper to taste 1/2 yellow onion 1 carrot 1 celery stalk 2 tablespoons lard or olive oil splash white wine 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate

Soak the bread in milk until soft. Squeeze it lightly and place it in a food processor bowl. Add the brasato and prosciutto slices. Process until ground finely but not into a paste. Transfer to a bowl.

Pick and mince the parsley.

Add the ground meats, egg, yolk, parmigiano, parsley and zest. Season to taste with nutmeg salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients together well with your hands.

Wet your palms and roll round meatballs of about 2" in diameter. Set aside on a plate.

Slice the onions, carrot and celery thinly.

Heat half the lard in a sauté pan and brown the meatballs in it, in batches if necessary to keep them from overcrowding the pan. Transfer to a platter.

Add the rest of the lard to the sauté pan and soften the sliced vegetables in it for about 10 minutes over medium heat and with a generous pinch of salt.

Place the browned meatballs back in the pan and turn up the heat.

After approximately 2 minutes, deglaze with the wine. When the smell of the wine has gone from pungent to sweet, add the tomato concentrate and about 1 cup of hot water. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat down to medium low.

Cover the meatballs and braise them slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, adding small amounts of water if necessary. Keep in mind that the liquid should come to no more than 1/3 of the way up the meatballs.

The sauce will darken and thicken while the meatballs cook.

Transfer to a platter and douse with the cooking sauce. Serve hot with a salad and some crusty bread.

 

Want to learn how to make bread and bone marrow gnocchi this Sunday?

...then join me at 18 Reasons to learn how and why Italians never waste old bread. The class, part of a 3-Sunday series called L'ingegno in cucina-The delicious economy of Italian home cooking will run from 5 to 8:30pm and will be, as always, a very hands-on workshop of intense deliciousness ending in a communal dinner. You can sigFocaccia pane vecchio e pomodorin up here for just one class or for the whole series, whose upcoming themes are risotto and frittata, two of the other crafty ways Italian use leftovers in their cooking.

Other items on the menu are focaccia di pane-in the picture on the left, pappa col pomodoro-a Tuscan bread and tomato soup and, of course, my mom's perfect panzanella, all about which you can read in my Mothers' Day blog post.

I hope to see you there! In the meantime, stay tuned for news on my adventures in Baci Perugina recipes development.