pasta with fish sauce

Happy Holiday Table!

Spaghetti alla pescatrice e finocchio

Spaghetti alla pescatrice e finocchio

Yes I am still around, just had a busy few months and writing took a backseat. If you're interested in finding out what kept me so busy, I just finished writing and end-of -year-recap newsletter which you will receive soon. This year, I had to pare down from last December's 12 Days of Christmas recipes extravaganza. For the 2015 Holiday table I am sharing 2 recipes, a pasta with monkfish for Christmas Eve and a rabbit with olives which can make a lovely dish anytime throughout the season.

I developed and taught both these dishes while leading my food tour of Maremma last September. More details on it and on upcoming tours for 2016 will be in my newsletter, or you can email for details.

Just one more reminder: cooking classes make great holiday gifts, check my newsletter for details on where I will be teaching in 2016.

Please enjoy the merriest of holidays!


Spaghetti con pescatrice, finocchio e pinoli tostati al profumo d’arancio

Spaghetti with orange scented monkfish, wild fennel and pine nuts sauce


for 6 to 8 people

3 sweet yellow onions

2 cups wild fennel

1 whole monkfish of about 3 pounds, skin off

(or fillets will do in a pinch and skate or a small bass can sub for the monkfish)

salt and pepper to taste

grated zest of one orange

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 pound box spaghetti


Slice the onions in very thin half moons.

Clean and wash the fennel very well. Dry it and chop it quite finely.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel and one pinch of grated zest.

Heat the olive oil in a shallow, wide mouth sauce pot add the onions, all but the reserved fennel and zest and a generous pinch of salt.

Slowly soften everything over gentle heat for about 20 minutes, until the onions appear translucent and quite soft.

Raise the heat and add the monkfish. As soon as the color of the fish changes to whitish, deglaze it with the white wine.

When you no longer smell the acidity of the wine, add 1 cup of water, turn the heat down and cover the fish.

Braise it slowly until the eyes are sunken in the orbits and the flesh is falling off the skeleton, it should take about 30 minutes.

Check it often and add a little bit of water to the bottom of the pot if it looks like it’s sticking or too dry.

In the meantime, toast the pine nuts on low heat until they are gold, appear oily and you can effortlessly smell their distinctive flavor.

Remove the fish from the pot being mindful to let all the liquid, onions and fennel fall back into the sauce.

Pick the flesh off the bones and spine. There will be some gelatinous parts that come from the spine and fins, keep them as they will make for just the right sauce texture.

Also, do not forget to pick the cheeks and all the tasty little bits off the head.

Return the bits of fish to the pot and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, just so that all the ingredients come together well.

Adjust salt and pepper.

Drop the spaghetti in salted boiling water and cook quite al dente, about 4 minutes less than the recommended time.

Strain the pasta from the water using tongs or a handheld strainer and add them to the pot with the sauce in it.

Add a bit of the pasta cooking water and finish cooking the pasta with the sauce, tossing and turning all the while.

You might need to add a little more pasta water, but do so gradually as to not overcook the pasta.

When the spaghetti reaches your preferred toothsomeness, sprinkle with olive oil, turn off the heat and toss with energy.

The oil and starch in the cooking water will bind, giving the dish just the right creaminess and moisture.

Scatter the toasted nuts on the pasta, toss and transfer to a warm platter.

Dust with the reserved fennel and zest and serve right away.


Very tasty rabbit

Very tasty rabbit

Coniglio alle olive in teglia

Stove top rabbit with olives

for 4 people

1 rabbit

salt to taste

1 cup black olives with pits

2 sage sprigs

2 wide strips orange peel

2 garlic clove

olive oil

1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup red wine

1 cups hot chicken stock

pepper to taste


The day before making the dish, have the butcher cut your rabbit in 8 to 10 pieces.

Salt the pieces generously, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to start cooking, remove the from the refrigerator and place on the counter to come to room temperature.

In the meantime, rinse the olives well and place them in a small bowl. Squeeze them lightly with your fingers to loosen the flesh.

Pick the leaves off 1 sage sprig and rub them and the orange peel strips between your palms to release their essence. Smash the garlic clove without peeling.

Add the rubbed sage and orange and the smashed garlic clove to the olives then cover everything in olive oil. Leave to marinate while you get the rabbit started.

Mince the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt and mix with the grated zest.

Pick the leaves off the remaining sage sprigs and rub them between your palms to release their essence.

Select a sauté pan wide enough to accommodate the rabbit pieces in one comfortable layer. Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in it and add the zest and garlic mince.

Set on gentle heat and add the sage leaves. Soften very gently for 2 to 3 minutes stirring often to prevent burning and sticking.

Add the rabbit and bring the fire to medium to brown lightly on both sides, still stirring to ensure the garlic doesn't burn.

Raise the heat to high and deglaze with the wine. When you no longer smell the acidity, but just the sugar, pour the stock all over the meat.

When the stock start boiling, lower the heat to medium low and cover the pan.

The rabbit will need to cook for about 20 minutes at a lively simmer. It will get quite tender. You will have to return to it often to ensure it is not burning nor sticking and has a bit of liquid on the bottom.

In the meantime, remove and discard the garlic clove from the olives and pour out some of the excess oil. Stir them into the rabbit.

Braise for another 10 to 15 minutes, adjust salt and pepper. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a warm platter and pour the cooking liquid over them. Serve warm to hot.

Note that there should be a good amount of slightly dense sauce. If it seems too liquid, remove the rabbit and keep it warm by covering the warm platter in aluminum, let the sauce boil a little longer to thicken slightly before pouring it on.

Italian summer cooking: tonnarelli with mullet and tomato sauce

First off: let me thank all who actually seemed to enjoy last week's post. It was very heartfelt, not sure that it had much to do with cooking, it was really about what my heart needed to say. I was touched to see that I can be appreciated for more than my stoveside manners... with beloved nieces and nephews

I have been here this week, ours is the house in the middle, which has been in my mother's family since the 50's.

Between siblings and cousins, spouses and offspring we have been averaging 15 to 20 around the table and it's been glorious. I revel in every moment of the banter, the differences, the laughter, the memories we share and we continue to make together.

Food is, of course, one of the ways we commune. Wednesday I gleefully found red mullet at the market, a treat not easy to happen in San Francisco. This is what happened next, to much family acclaim.


Tonnarelli al sugo rosso di triglia Tonnarelli with red mullet and tomato sauce

Tonnarelli is a pasta cut typical of Abruzzo. They are an egg based long kind of spaghetti cut through a chitarra, a tool with metal strings through which a thick sheet of egg dough is pushed to obtain rustic, toothsome spaghetti with a square or rectangular section. The ones I used were a dried kind from a small artisan pastificio. Good linguine or pici can be used in this recipe to good effect.

for 6 people

mullets getting ready for sauce

1 pound red mullet 2 garlic cloves 1 handful basil leaves salt to taste 1 cups very ripe cherry tomatoes EV olive oil 2 tablespoons tomato concentrate pepper to taste 1 pound tonnarelli (or other pasta of choice)

Scale and gut the mullet and cut off the fins. Separate the fillets from the heads and spines. Keep everything except the fins and guts. Sprinkle with salt.

Mince the garlic and basil into a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Quarter the tomatoes.

Gently heat the garlic and basil paste with the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the mullet fillets, heads and spines and sauté on high heat until they change color. Add the quartered tomatoes and let soften.

the mullet sugo

Stir in the tomato concentrate and add some warm water. Braise slowly, covered for about 35 to 40 minutes, adding a bit of water at a time if necessary.

The fish will become undone and shred into sauce. Pick out the heads and bones, making sure to pick off the tasty flesh and let it fall into the sauce. Adjust salt and pepper.

Cook the tonnarelli very al dente in a pot of salted boiling water. When quite al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes from done, transfer into the pan with the sauce using a hand held strainer. Finish cooking using the pasta water.

The starchy water will bind with the sauce around the pasta. When it is ready, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh basil. Serve immediately.

mullets meeting their blessed end