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Filtering by Tag: Lidia's Italy

Lidia's Fagotini Di Prosciutto Di Parma (Prosciutto Purses)

Beth Ribblett

All of that writing about the Bastianich Vespa Bianco made my mouth water, so I had to cook something to pair with it! And of course a recipe from Lidia's Italy was most appropriate! I forgot to buy the chives when I went shopping so I substituted with fresh thyme stems, a little tricky to tie, but they worked!

Cook the “purses” just long enough to brown them. Overcooking will make them salty and, as Prosciutto di Parma is a carefully cured product, it doesn’t need to be cooked to be rendered edible. When buying the prosciutto, ask for slices from the widest part of the ham that will measure about 8 inches by 4 inches.

Yields 20 purses

20 sturdy fresh chives, each at least 5 inches long
10 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, each approximately 8- x 4- inches
20 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ripe fresh figs, cut into quarters or thin wedges of ripe cantaloupe or honeydew melon

Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and add the chives. Stir, separating the chives gently, just until they turn bright green, about 5 seconds. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water and let stand a few seconds to stop the cooking. Remove the chives and drain them on paper towels.

Cut the prosciutto slices in half crosswise to make pieces that measure approximately 4- x 4- inches. Place 1 teaspoon grated cheese in the center of each square and gather the edges of the prosciutto over the cheese to form a “purse” with a rounded bottom and ruffled top. Pinch the prosciutto firmly where it is gathered and tie it around this “neck” with a length of chive. Continue with remaining prosciutto slices, cheese and chives.

In a large, preferably non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over low heat. Add half of the purses and cook, shaking the skillet very gently occasionally, the undersides are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and cook the remaining purses in the same manner. Serve hot with fresh figs or ripe melon pieces.

Pasta alla Norma, Ziti with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Salted Ricotta

Beth Ribblett

From Lidia's Italy by Lidia Bastianich

Sicilians are passionate about both food and opera, so it is no surprise that one of the island’s most celebrated dishes is pasta alla Norma. What better way to honor the composer Vincenzo Bellini, a native son of Catania (on Sicily’s eastern coast), than to name a delicious pasta for Norma, one of the great operatic masterworks of all time?

I love both the opera and the dish, and, I can assure you, aside from their name, they’re quite different. Those of you familiar with opera know that the title role of Norma is so difficult that only the greatest sopranos ever sing it. On the other hand, this recipe is simple and
easily made.

Serves 6
2 or 3 small firm eggplants (1 pound total)
1 ½ tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for a final flourish
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes
4 cups (or a 35-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably
San Marzano, crushed by hand
1 pound ziti
6 large fresh basil leaves
2 cups ricotta salata, freshly shredded on a hand grater

A heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12 inches or wider, for frying
the eggplant and then cooking the sauce and pasta
A large pot, 8-quart capacity, with a cover, for cooking the pasta

-Trim the eggplants, and slice them (skin on) into 1±-inch chunks. Toss them with 1 teaspoon of salt, and drain in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse, and pat them dry with paper towels.
-To fry the eggplant, pour the cup of vegetable oil in the skillet, and set over medium heat. Spread all the eggplant chunks in the hot oil, and leave them in place for a few minutes to start browning. Fry for about 10 minutes, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft and cooked through and nicely browned on all sides. Lift the chunks out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and spread them on a platter lined with paper towels. Put the eggplant in a warm spot
(such as a briefly heated oven) while you make the sauce and pasta. Discard the frying oil, and wipe out the skillet.
-Pour 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, into the big pot, and bring to a boil.
-Pour the olive oil into the skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and set over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the peperoncino in, and cook until the garlic is lightly colored, then pour in the crushed tomatoes. Slosh a cup of water in the tomato container to rinse it clean, and stir that in along with another ± teaspoon salt.
-Bring the tomatoes to a boil, then lower the heat and cook the sauce at a bubbling simmer for 12 minutes or so, until slightly thickened.
-Meanwhile, when the pasta water comes to a rolling boil, stir in the ziti. Cook until almost al dente, then lift them out with a spider, drain for a moment, and drop into the simmering tomato sauce. Toss together for a minute or two, until the ziti are cooked and coated
with sauce. Turn off the heat.
-Tear the basil leaves into shreds, and scatter over the pasta along with a cup of the shredded ricotta salata. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil all over, and toss well. Now spread the eggplant chunks on top of the pasta, and sprinkle over it the remaining ricotta salata. Serve immediately, spooning both pasta and a portion of eggplant chunks into individual warm pasta bowls.

Pesto Trapanese

Beth Ribblett

It all started with a beautiful bowl of heirloom cherry tomatoes....

Our friend Cynthia from New York (Farmhouse Table and our partner in crime for the Divine Sicily tour), was coming in to town with 3 incredible wines that she brought back from Sicily made by this unconventional and somewhat controversial producer that we will be visiting on our trip, Frank Cornelissen. I wanted to keep things simple to allow the wine to be the star of the show, and also wanted something that was utterly Sicilian.

Off to the Tuesday Crescent City Farmer's Market I went, in search of local ingredients I could use for this meal. I am a tomato fanatic so I went a little crazy at the heirloom tomato lady's stand and then again at the cute guy's stand and came home with bags of heirloom tomatoes in all different sizes, shapes and colors, plus a big bag of fresh basil.

So, I started digging through all of my cookbooks and found this classic Sicilian pesto made with fresh cherry tomatoes. I decided to use Lidia Bastianich's version as I have found all of her recipes to be tried and true. And she did not disappoint on this one! Delicious, light, fresh and very unique, this is the perfect summer pesto. Just add some of Chef Daniel Esses' homemade fettuccine, good friends and a few bottles of wine for an amazing meal!

Pesto Trapanese
From Lidia's Italy

Serves 4 to 6

¾ pound (about 2-1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, very ripe and sweet
12 large fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup of whole almonds, lightly toasted
1 plump garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon peperoncino or to taste
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste, plus more for the pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Recommended equipment:
A blender (my preference) or a food processor
A pot for cooking the spaghetti

Rinse the cherry tomatoes and pat them dry. Rinse the basil leaves and pat dry.

Drop the tomatoes into the blender jar or food processor bowl followed by the garlic clove, the almonds, basil leaves, peperoncino and ½ tsp salt. Blend for a minute or more to a fine purée; scrape down the bowl and blend again if any large bits or pieces have survived.

With the machine still running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream, emulsifying the purée into a thick pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If you’re going dress the pasta within a couple of hours, leave the pesto at room temperature. Refrigerate if for longer storage, up to 2 days, but let it return to room temperature before cooking the pasta.

To cook the spaghetti, heat 6 quarts of water, with 1 tablespoon salt, to the boil in the large pot. Scrape all the pesto into a big warm bowl.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, lift it from the cooking pot, drain briefly, and drop onto the pesto. Toss quickly to coat the spaghetti, sprinkle the cheese all over, and toss again. Serve immediately in warm bowls.

Felidia, Delizioso!

Beth Ribblett

The reservation for our much anticipated dinner at Felidia was Tuesday night. I was able to
arrange it through one of the Bastianich staff who visited us last summer (thank you Caroline!). If you spend any time with us or in the shop, you know how we feel about Lidia and her wines. She and her son Joey own the Bastianich winery in Friuli and La Mozza in the Maremma (Tuscany). The Bastianich Tocai Friulano, Vespa Bianco, Rosato and Sauvignon Blanc as well as the La Mozza I Perazzi are some of few standard labels of our ever revolving inventory. We drink them often and recommend them frequently as we've sold close to 800 bottles of their wines since we opened.

We also are huge fans of Lidia's show on PBS, Lidia's Italy, that takes you on a journey with Lidia to her ten favorite regions around Italy as she introduces you to friends and family and takes you to food markets, fishing villages and farms as you haggle over the price of fish and forage for the perfect truffle. Then, return back to Lidia’s familiar kitchen to prepare a sumptuous meal using the regional recipes and ingredients. We also own a few of her cookbooks and have loved everything we've made.

So, needless to say, we had high expectations, especially after all of the great food we had eaten over the last few days! We were greeted by an incredibly friendly staff who gave us Lidia's regards and said she was sorry she couldn't be there to greet us. True or not, it was a very nice gesture on their part! We were led past a beautiful mahogany bar to a wonderful table near the kitchen in the second dining room. It's a very warm, kind of cozy atmosphere; beautiful hardwood floors, amber textured walls with a stained wood wainscoting, all washed in great ambient lighting from the sconces on the wall.

As soon as we sat down, we were brought complimentary bubbly, a sparkling wine in the Bastianch line that I've never seen before. A very crisp, clean sparkling that was mainly Chardonnay and had a beautifully dry finish. The wine list was incredible with every region of Italy represented in both red and white wines as well as nearly every other wine producing country from Croatia, Greece and Hungary to the European powerhouses of France, Spain, Austria and Germany to the new world players of the US, South American, Australia and New Zealand. The menu had to be close to 40 pages long and the prices ranged from a $25 of Croatian Katunar Žlahtina to a $2250 bottle of a 1955 Biondi Santi Brunello and truly everything in between.

To start our evening, I chose a 2000 Bastianich Vespa Bianco, the flagship wine of the estate created to showcase the power and evolution that a great Friulian white can have. Consisting of equal parts Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a touch of Picolit, Vespa Bianco becomes a sum of its parts, a wine of amazing complexity. A five time winner of the prestigious Gambero Rosso Three Glasses award, the Vespa Bianco is incredible in any vintage! I was debating between the 2000 and the 2006 and the very unpretentious sommelier steered me toward the 2000 to see how well the wine ages. With creamy layers of stone fruit intertwined with smoke, earthiness and French oak, this medium-bodied white shows outstanding harmony and tons of style and was fabulous with the food! I'm really glad I ordered it because it reminded me of how special this wine is and that I need to get it back in the shop, especially at the incredible price of $30 retail!

The second wine of the evening came from my new favorite wine region, the eastern area of Sicily near Mt. Etna. These wines are incredibly elegant yet powerful, more reminiscent of burgundy than the dark reds of the island. I chose the Palari Rosso di Soprano, a blend of local grape varieties, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, and Jacche. The blend is based on a wine known in antiquity as Mamertino, which comes from the native nerello mascalese, nerello cappuccio, nocera. Medium ruby with a striking garnet tinge, this wine is immediately approachable, even with its grippy tannins. An alluring nose of baked earth and raspberry fruit. The medium-full body is filled with flavors of cherry, blackberry, raspberry and leather with a silky mouth feel.

Now came the arduous task of trying to chose what to eat from the menu of food and specials we were given! Since there were 4 of us, we decided to get lots of dishes and eat family style, and between what we ordered and the fabulous complimentary items they sent out, it would be hard to write about everything, so here are the highlights!

Antipasti: Il Polipo all Griglia- sliced mosaic and grilled octopus with burrata stracciatella and black olives. Burrata is a typical cheese produced in the province of Bari, in the south of Italy. It has the shape of a small “sack” made of soft cheese which contains a generous quantity of stracciatella, a delicate mixture of fresh cream and mozzarella frayed in thin threads. The octopus was sliced super thin and the mixture of flavors with the divine sweet creamy burrata and the salty olives was nothing short of amazing. Hands down the best octopus I've ever eaten!

Primi Piatti: Il Cacio e Pere - Pear and fresh pecorino-filled ravioli, aged pecorino, crushed black pepper. Creamy and rich with an incredible mix of textures filling the melt in your mouth fresh pasta sacks.

Secondi Piatti: Il Manzo, Flat Iron braised in Goulash sauce, or the Il Branzino, Whole grilled Mediterranean bass. Both were delicious, but by this time we had a cocktail, sparkling wine, a bottle of white and a bottle of red. The details of the dishes are a bit blurry, but the feeling of gastronomic satiation lives on!

I Dolci: Panna Cotta di Mandorle - the creamiest, smoothest panna cotta, somehow delicate and rich at the same time with a subtle almond flavor. The perfect end to the perfect meal!

All in all, it was an incredible experience that exceeded our expectations. The service was impeccable, attentive but not intrusive; the environment and physical space were beautiful without any pretense or snobbishness which was surprising in a restaurant with the reputation of Felidia. And the food was spectacular, with each palate pleasing dish presenting a incredible array of flavors, textures and individuality. Delizioso!!

Check out this great video of Lidia talking about her restaurant:

Felidia Restaurant New York, NY - Click here for more free videos