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Filtering by Tag: Lidia Bastianich

Tajarin, The Most Decadent Pasta I've Ever Made, Eater or Served!

Beth Ribblett

In doing research for our upcoming trip to Piemonte, it's not surprising that I've come across many recipes that feature their most prized food, the aromatic and highly flavorful white truffle.  And since Barolo is definitely one of our favorite wines on earth, I decided that I needed to cook something from the region for our annual staff dinner and ran across this decadent recipe from Lidia Bastianich.

The problem was in getting a truffle in a very short amount of time that I could use for the dish.  After a few days of  phone calls, texts and internet searches, our friend Jeff Talbot over at Ancora came through with a nice chunk of black truffle.  Although the recipe called for the traditional white truffle from Alba (upwards of $2000 per lb!) I figure the black truffle at half the price would have a similar, although not nearly as flavorful, effect.

Tajarin is different from regular pasta in the amount of egg yolks used that give it a beautiful saffron yellow color.  It is a handcut pasta that takes some time to make, but if you are going to the trouble of fresh truffles, why not?  I used the best ingredients possible - fresh organic egg yolks, Panini organic Parmigiano and the best butter ever made, the Delitia Burro di Parma.  How can you go wrong?

We served the 2008 Einaudi Barolo Terlo that was not nearly ready to drink but was still beautiful with the rich, butter ladden dish!  

For the Pasta
The black truffle from Jeff at Ancora
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
9 large egg yolks, (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

For cooking and dressing the pasta
1 tablespoon Coarse sea salt, or kosher salt
½ pound butter, (2 sticks)
1 ounce white truffle butter, or more, brushed cleans
1 cup Grana Padano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Pasta-Rolling Machine;

To mix the tajarin dough, put the 2 cups flour in the food processor, fitted with the metal blade, and process for a few seconds to aerate. Mix together the egg yolks, olive oil and 3 tablespoons water in a measuring cup or other spouted container. Start the food processor running and pour in the liquids through the feed tube (scrape in all the drippings). Process for 30 to 40 seconds until a dough forms and gathers on the blade. If the dough does not gather on the blade or process easily, it is too wet or too dry. Feel the dough, then work in either more flour or ice water, in small amounts, using the machine or kneading by hand. 

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for a minute until it's smooth, soft and stretchy. Press it into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for a half hour. (Refrigerate the dough for up to a day or freeze it for a month or more. Defrost in the refrigerator and return to room temperature before rolling.) 

Cut the dough in 4 equal pieces. Keeping the dough lightly floured, roll each piece through a pasta machine at progressively narrower settings into sheets that are 5-inches wide (or as wide as your machine allows) and 20-inches or longer. Cut each strip crosswise in three shorter rectangles, each about 7-inches long. 

Flour each of these rectangles and roll them up the long way, into a loose cylinder, like a fat cigar. With a sharp knife, cut cleanly through the rolled dough crosswise at 1/8 to 1/4-inch intervals. Shake and unroll the cut pieces, opening them into tajarin ribbons, each about 7-inches long and 1/4-inch wide. Dust them liberally with flour and set them on a floured towel or tray. 

To cook the tajarin, bring to the boil 6 quarts of water with the tablespoon salt. Meanwhile, melt the butter in the large skillet and dilute it with 1/3 cup of the hot pasta water. Heat until barely simmering. 

When the water is at a rolling boil, shake the tajarin in a colander to remove excess flour and drop them all at once into the pot. Stir well to separate the ribbons and bring back to the boil. Cook for only a minute or until the pasta is just al dente, then lift it from the water with a spider, drain briefly, and drop it into the skillet. 

Over low heat toss the tajarin until well coated with butter. Turn off the heat and toss in half the grated cheese. Shave coin-sized flakes of truffle-using half the piece-over the pasta and toss in. 

Heap individual portions of pasta into warm bowls. Quickly shave the remaining truffle, in equal shares, on top of each mound of tajarin and serve immediately.

Savory Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage and Butter

Beth Ribblett

I managed to get out of town for a few days this weekend and took a quick trip to visit my family in Pennsylvania.  The cool fall weather and changing leaves have been a refreshing change from the still way to hot temperatures in New Orleans!  I always like to cook something special when I'm here and the abundance of autumn veggies and gourds inspired me to make homemade Pumpkin Ravioli.  My sous chef Rika and I spent the afternoon on Sunday making fresh pasta and while they weren't too sure about pumpkin and sage together, the meal was a hit even with the most picky eaters.

My standard fresh pasta recipe is Lidia Bastianich's from her book Lidia's Italian Table. It is simple, delicate and comes out perfect every time I've made it. I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer or the initial blending and then add the pasta roller attachments  when it is time to roll it out. When possible, I like to use farm fresh eggs (the fresher the better) that we buy at the Crescent City Farmer's Market. Click here for my step by step instructions for making fresh pasta, Pasta all'Uovo, Basic Egg Pasta.

Once you have gotten to the point in the dough recipe where you "Roll the dough into a smooth ball. Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator, before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before rolling and shaping.", you can now make the filling while the dough is resting.

Makes 6 generous servings

For the filling:
    16 oz. ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
    16 oz. pumpkin puree
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt
    Freshly grated nutmeg

For the sauce (to dress about 1/3 of the ravioli):
    1 stick unsalted butter
    20 sage leaves (plus additional for garnish, if desired)
    Handful Almond Slivers
   1/4 cup pine nuts
    Kosher salt
    Parmesan shavings

 While the pasta dough rests, combine the ricotta, pumpkin, egg, Kosher salt, and some freshly ground nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon mat and lightly flour.

 Once the dough has rested, use a pasta machine to roll the pasta out into thin, wide sheets. I did not have my ravioli mold with me, so we used a juice glass for round ravioli.  I like to lightly mark the pasta sheets with the glass before I spoon on the filling.  Place spoons of the filling in the circles on the dough, and using a small brush, lightly dampen the edges with water to help seal.  Top with another sheet of pasta dough.  Using the glass, press down through both sheets to cut, pinch the edges with your fingers, dust with flour and place on the baking sheet.  At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to a day before you do the final steps.

The pine nuts and almonds are a garnish and need to be roasted/toasted until they darken slightly, be careful not to burn them.  Once you've done this, grind about 2/3 of the mixture, leaving the other third whole, combine the two and set aside until you're ready to garnish.

To prepare the ravioli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, in batches, pushing the ravioli back down into the boiling water with a wooden spoon as it floats to the top.  Drain the ravioli and set aside.

Meanwhile, brown the butter in a large skillet.  Add the sage and cook for a few extra minutes. Transfer the ravioli to the pan and toss gently in the sauce.  Serve immediately topped with the nut mixture and some shaved Parmesan cheese.

Pasta with Fresh Lemon, Cream and Chanterelles

Beth Ribblett

I saw a recipe in Lidia Bastianich's cookbook and have just been waiting for the right opportunity to make it.  Hers uses lemon juice and zest with rich heavy cream with a fresh tagliatelle pasta.  But when I was shopping at the Hollygrove Market yesterday I got one of the few remaining bags freshly foraged chanterelles and decided they would be perfect addition to her recipe.  Not to mention they had a few pints left of the to-die-for Rocking R Dairy fresh cream, making my decision even easier.

Today was a long bike ride for us, so there was no time for fresh pasta. But I find the next best thing is the Bionaturae brand of egg pasta, and we just happened to have a package of the papparedelle in the pantry.

    * 3 tablespoons butter
    * 4 teaspoons Lemon zest, finely grated (about 2 lemons)
    * 1 teaspoons salt (her recipe calls for 2t, use 1t and then adjust)
    * 1 cup dry white wine
    * 1 cup chanterelles, slice the big ones vertically into strips
    * 1 cup heavy cream
    * ⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 lemons)
    * 1 pound tagliatelle or pappardelle
    * 1 cup pecorino, freshly grated, plus more for passing
    * extra-virgin olive oil, best quality, for serving

Servings: This recipe yields 6 servings.


Put your pot of water for the pasta on the stove and begin to bring it to a boil. As you are waiting for your water, begin the recipe.

Drop the butter into the big skillet, and set it over medium heat. As the butter melts, scatter in the grated lemon zest; stir it around until sizzling. Add the chanterelles and gently stir them to coat with with butter. Pour in the white wine and lemon juice, add the salt, stir, and bring the liquids to a bubbling simmer. Cover the skillet, and let cook for a couple of minutes.

Uncover the pan, and slowly pour in the cream, whisking it steadily into the simmering wine and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquids reduce to a saucy consistency you like, 2 or 3 minutes more.

After whisking in the cream, start cooking the pasta until al dente. This about 4 minutes for fresh pasta or the bionaturae pasta.

With the lemon-and-cream sauce at a simmer, taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.  Remember that your cheese will add some salt as well.  As soon as the pasta has finished cooking, quickly lift out with tongs and drop it all into the skillet. Toss the pasta until well coated, loosening the sauce with a few spoonfuls of hot pasta- cooking water if needed.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle a cup or so of grated cheese over the linguine, and toss well. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.

Taste The Wines of Bastianich Tonight @ Swirl

Beth Ribblett

Lidia Bastianch and her son Joe have dedicated their lives to bringing the best of Italy home to your table.  Award winning restaurants, best selling books, popular cooking shows, and amazing wines, they've created an Italian family food dynasty like nothing else I've seen.

Lidia's cookbooks are some of our favorites and I feature her recipes regularly on my blog and Joe's book "Vino Italiano" is one of my go to references on the crazy world of Italian wine.  Besides owning 18 restaurants across the country, they now own three wineries in Italy in Friuli, Tuscany and recently a property in Piedmont, all which produce very high quality, food friendly wines at approachable prices.  Due to our crazy tasting schedule, the wines go in and out of inventory so, needing a Bastianich fix, I asked Monica from Neat Wines about doing an event.  We'll be tasting 5 wines from Friuli and the Maremma and I might just throw in a special treat of an older vintage bottle of their 5 time winner of the acclaimed "Three Glasses" award, The Vespa Bianco.  We'll have copies of a few of Lidia's recipes available and some Italian cured meats and cheeses to try with the wines.

Our events with the Neat Wines crew are always fun and with this lineup, Tuesday night is sure to be a sell out, so please call 504.304.0635 for a reservation.  Attendance is limited and pre-payment is required to hold your spot. $10, Tuesday, 6:30-8pm.

Pasta for Breakfast?

Beth Ribblett

Ok, so maybe we've taken our love of pasta a bit too far this time, but when we saw this preparation on iron chef, we knew it would be perfect for our upcoming dc10 theme of "brunch". So here's the deal. We've put our own spin on the recipe and made large ravioli stuffed with the usual ricotta and herb filling, but then topped it off with a fresh egg yoke before covering it with the 2nd sheet of pasta. We boiled them, just like you do regular ravioli and then plated them drizzled in melted butter and a little pancetta. Sunnyside up with a side of bacon, Italian style!

My standard pasta recipe is Lidia Bastianich's from her book Lidia's Italian Table. It is simple, delicate and comes out perfect every time I've made it. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for the initial blending and then add the attachments when it is time to roll it out. I use farm fresh eggs (the fresher the better) that we buy from Justin Pitts at the Crescent City Farmer's Market when possible.

Make the dough first. I've taken the time to type Lidia's recipe word for word and added photos of the steps. You will have lots of left over dough to make regular ravioli or cut it into fettuccine. Click here for Pasta all'Uovo

I did the dough, Kerry came up with filling and we assembled them together. A fun, albeit a bit stressful, Sunday morning in the kitchen... I think the dc10 brunch was our best event yet!

Serves 12

Ravioli Ingredients
2 medium shallots
10-12 oz. fresh spinach
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stick butter
1 t. freshly chopped dill
fresh nutmeg
10-12 oz. fresh ricotta
12 fresh egg yokes (reserve a little of the whites to brush the edges of ravioli
6 oz. pancetta, cut 1/2" slices
Freshly grated Piave or Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
Fresh pasta sheets, see link to recipe above

Chop shallots and saute in 1 T. of the butter with a few generous grinds of black pepper and a pinch of peperoncino. When shallots are clear, add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted. Add dill and salt to tasted. Be sure all of the water has cooked out of the spinach, but be careful not to over cook.

Transfer cooked spinach to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes. Place ricotta in a bowl and grate a small amount of nutmeg in (to taste, and you don't need much). Add cooled spinach and shallot mixture and blend well. Add more salt to taste. If mixture seems to "spinachy" add a little more ricotta. Proportions are not too critical here, you just need to have a good consistency to make the nests for the egg. Taste and add more pepper if desired.

Now you are ready for the fun part! Find a glass or something you can use to make roughly a 5" in diameter circle. Take your sheets of fresh pasta that have been resting for the past 15 minutes, and cut them in half so that each sheet is roughly 6" x 15" (this will make them a little easier to work with). Flour your surface to keep the sheets from sticking. Take your glass and gently mark out 4 ravioli on a sheet. Spoon about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the ricotta mix in the center of each of the four circles. Form the mixture into little, equally shaped nests using a teaspoon or your fingers, their rims have to be high enough to keep the egg yolks from escaping.

Carefully divide the eggs (the egg yolks must stay whole) and gently place one yolk in the center of each ricotta nest. Take one of the unused egg whites and brush the pasta around the ricotta, in order to make the pasta sheets stick together well. Gently place another pasta sheet over the ricotta/egg yolk arrangements and tightly seal each one to avoid any air trapped inside. Stamp out the individual ravioli with your glass or mark and cut with a pasta cutter. Repeat 2 more times until you've made 12 ravioli.

Cook the ravioli in a large pan of salted, slightly boiling water for two to three minutes until just al dente, but with the egg yolks still runny. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and brown for a few minutes if desired. In another pan brown the pancetta. Drain the ravioli using a skimmer, place on a warm dish, then top with the butter, freshly ground pepper, a little extra grated Parmesan and place the pancetta on the side. Prepare for an amazing gastronomic experience!

Pasta all'Uovo - Basic Egg Pasta Dough

Beth Ribblett

My standard pasta recipe is Lidia Bastianich's from her book Lidia's Italian Table. It is simple, delicate and comes out perfect every time I've made it. I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer for the initial blending and then add the pasta roller attachments when it is time to roll it out. When possible, I like to use farm fresh eggs (the fresher the better) that we buy from Justin Pitts at the Crescent City Farmer's Market.

This is Lidia's recipe when using an electric mixer. Her book also details mixing the dough by hand as well as with a food processor.

4 cups unbleached flour
6 large eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. olive oil
warm water as needed

Place all but 1/3 cup of flour in the mixing bowl of a of a heavy duty electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, salt and olive oil together until blended. With the mixer on low speed, pour the egg mixture into the mixing bowl. Knead just until the mixture comes together to form a rough dough. If necessary, drizzle a very small amount of warm water into the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead using the remaining flour, and more if necessary, using the following method.Once you have formed a rough dough, it is ready to knead. Flour a marble or wooden work surface. Press the heel of one handing deep into the dough, keeping your fingers high. Then press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you-the dough will stretch and roll under your hand like a large shell. Turn the dough over, then press into the dough first with the knuckles of one hand, then with the other; do this about ten times with the knuckles of each hand. Use the knuckles of your forefingers especially during this process.

Then repeat the stretching and "knuckling" process, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking, until the dough is smooth and silky, 10-2o minutes. Roll the dough into a smooth ball.Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator, before rolling and shaping the pasta. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before rolling and shaping.

Rolling the dough with a pasta machine (I used the Kitchen Aid attachments). Cut the ball of dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rectangle about 5x3 inches. Lightly flour the pasta rectangles and cover them with a kitchen towel. Set the rollers of the pasta machine to the widest setting. Pass one of the pasta rectangles through the rollers long side first, then pass it though the rollers a second time. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Keep the dough lightly floured-just enough to prevent if from sticking to the rollers. Reduce the width by one setting and pass each piece of dough through the rollers two times. Support the dough with your hand as it comes through the rollers-don't pull it though, or the dough will shrink so it is narrower than the width of the rollers.

Continue working with the pieces of dough in the same order and reducing the width one setting each time until all pieces of dough have been passed through to the proper setting. (Each pasta machine is different. Consult the directions for proper setting of your equipment the type of pasta you are making); the pasta sheets should be about 5-1/2 x 30 inches. Always keep the pieces of dough that aren't being rolled covered with a towel. If you find the dough is very elastic, let all pieces rest for 5 to 10 minutes before continuing. Once all pasta has been rolled into sheets, let them rest, completely covered with towels, for about 15 minutes before cutting them.

Now comes the fun part of deciding what you want to do with these beautiful sheets of dough. Linguine and fettuccine will need another cutting attachment or a hand crank pasta roller. Lasagna, ravioli, papardelle, cannelloni can all be cut by hand from this point.

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.

The Return of an Old Friend

Beth Ribblett

The life of a wine on the shelves at Swirl can be short lived. Sometimes is has nothing to do with popularity, just the mere fact that due to our ambitious schedule of 2+ tastings per week combined with my inability to pass on new and interesting wines, our inventory is ever changing and evolving. The positive side to this is that you, our treasured customers, are constantly getting exposed to cool and different wines, lots of obscure varieties, exciting new regions and up and coming wine makers. The downside is that a wonderful wine may get pushed out of the rotation just because I need space for the 10 new wines we'll be bringing in for this weeks lineup of tastings!

Such is the case of one of my favorite wines produced by a family who have been part of an Italian wine and food "revolution" in this country. Ignited by the matriarchal maven of Italian cooking, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, and fueled by her son Joe's ever-expanding array of projects, the Bastianichs have played a major role in bringing the culture of Italy to our tables. I've written often about Lidia, have had the privilege of meeting Joe through our friends at Neat Wines and have been enamoured with the family and their projects for quite some time.

So the "old friend" that has returned is the 2004 Bastianich Vespa Bianco, the flagship wine of the Bastianich winery in Friuli. My personal pick for our Thanksgiving meal, and an open spot on the racks gave me the perfect excuse to bring back this store favorite. The Vespa is one of what Joe calls "Super-Whites," the blends that command the most respect in Friuli. The Super-Whites from Friuli are quite different from the whites of other Italian regions, beginning with the fact that they're blended. The grape varieties generally include Friulano(Friuli's most famous grape), Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

This 5-time Gambero Rosso Three Glass winner was created to showcase the power and evolution that a great Friulian white can have. Consisting of equal parts Sauvignon and Chardonnay with a measure of Picolit, Vespa Bianco becomes a sum of its parts, a wine of uncommon complexity.

In the most recent issue of Gambero Rosso magazine, Bastianich Vespa Bianco was named one of the top “50 Bianchi d’Italia”. The wines chosen were not vintage-specific. This was an overall ranking of the best white wines in Italy over the past 23 years.

Bastianich Vespa Bianco ranked number 32 overall, among some of the greatest and most famous whites in all of Italy. Their placement in the Top 50 is especially noteworthy considering that many of the other wines mentioned in the article have a much longer winemaking history than Bastianich.

Winemaker's Notes: A tightly wound balance of minerality and citrus, evolving over time into a more viscous expression of wildflowers, clover honey and mature pear. The palate sensations are more like those of a red wine. Its powerful tannic structure and acidic backbone lend it not only immediate impact but a long life. Vespa Bianco can be further aged up to 7-10 years after the vintage.

Gambero Rosso 2007

Superbly complex, and veined with cream and banana, it is lifted by fresh fruit to the heights of elegance. The supremely balanced, gutsy palate is textbook stuff, making this a particularly sophisticated Three Glass champion.
Tre Bicchieri - Gambero Rosso

The best part? You can get this kind of quality and longevity for $28.99!

For more information on Bastianich wines, Joe and Lidia, check out these great links including Joe's blog, "The Buzz", the source of those great wasp photos!

The Buzz
Joe Bastianich
Lidia's Italy
New York Restaurant Insider, a great article on Lidia and her incredible life journey
Swirl and Savor: Lidia, my past posts on Lidia and some of her recipes

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.

Whole Roasted Fish Paired with Adelaida Version White

Beth Ribblett

Cooking fish whole, on the bone with the head and tail attached, is absolutely the best way to eat it. The meat around the bones just seems sweeter and tastier! I ran over to Kjean's Fish Market on Carollton to see what they had and was able to pick up some fresh trout. Just ask them to gut and scale the fish for you. This recipe is actually fairly simple with out a lot of mess in the kitchen and the end result is fantastic! I've adapted from Lidia Bastianich's, Lidia's Italian Table recipe for Whole Roasted Striped Bass. Apparently it is a staple on the menu at her restaurant Becco in New York, and she prepared a version of this for the Pope in 2008!

Makes 6 servings

For the garlic-infused oil:
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the fish:
6 whole trout, about 1 1/4 lb. each, eviscerated and scaled
6 fresh or dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 medium-sized red onions, peeled and cut into 1/3″ slices
6 small, firm vine ripened tomatoes, cored and cut in half

To serve:

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley leaves

-Prepare the garlic-infused oil about half an hour before roasting the fish: In a small bowl blend the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to steep for half an hour.

-Preheat the oven to 475 F. Use the garlic-infused oil to grease two heavy, large (at least 22 x 18-inches) roasting pans, preferably with low sides. Brush each fish on both sides with the olive oil mixture and enclose the tails in aluminum foil. Place one bay leaf and one sprig of rosemary in the cavity of each fish. Arrange the fish in the prepared pans, leaving as much space between them, and between the sides of the pan, as possible. Arrange the onion slices and tomato halves around the fish in both pans so as not to overlap with each other.

-Season the fish and vegetables with salt and pepper and divide the wine between the pans. Bake until the fish and vegetables begin to brown, about 25 minutes, drizzling occasionally with about ½ cup of the remaining garlic-infused oil. (The rest of the garlic-infused oil will be used as the base of a sauce to be served with the fish.) Remove the fish from the oven.

-Stir the lemon juice and parsley into the remaining garlic-infused oil and season with salt and pepper. Place one whole fish on each plate and flank with the vegetables. Spoon any sauce from the baking pan over each serving.

-Stir the lemon-parsley sauce well and spoon a little over each serving. Set the rest of the sauce on the table for passing as fish is being enjoyed. Pour a nice glass of Adelaida Version and relax!

Wine of the Moment: 2007 Adelaida Version White

Beth Ribblett

Referred to locally as the Adelaida Hills (not to be confused with Australia’s Adelaide Hills), they’re part of the Santa Lucia Mountains, which span 140 miles from Carmel Bay through San Luis Obispo County in California's Central Coast. Exciting things are happening in these remote hills, valleys and benchlands northwest of Paso Robles, so much so that in the June 30, 2005 issue of Wine Advocate, Robert M. Parker, Jr. asserts “there is no question that a decade from now, the top viticultural areas of Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills and the limestone hillsides west of Paso Robles will be as well-known as the glamorous vineyards of Napa Valley.

So just what is it that makes this area so special in terms of winemaking? As in all of the great wine regions of the world, the soil, climate and topography together create an ideal environment for quality grape growing. Given that they have some pretty special ground, with some of the highest elevations in the area, a wide variety of slopes and orientations, and those sought after limestone soils, it's not surprising that the area is producing concentrated, well-structured, age worthy wines.

More specifically here is what you'll find:
-the calcareous soils (calcium carbonate, limestone or chalk) of the area and the significance of this rocky, relatively infertile type of soil contribute to the exciting quality of the wines on the Westside. Calcareous soils, in particular, contribute intense bouquets, firm acids and strong alcohol but with finesse.
-climate during the growing season, specifically the hot days and cool nights. The Westside commonly has temperature swings of 50-55 degrees day-to-night, largely due to cooling breezes from Pacific Ocean creating prime conditions for ripe fruit with a balance of sugar and acid.
-dominated by the Santa Lucia Mountains it is an amazingly varied area with flatlands, river bottoms, benchlands, hills and mountains. There are multiple microclimates and diverse vineyard sites ranging from 800-2000 feet above sea level.

Over forty years ago, Dr. Stanley Hoffman recognized the area's potential and planted some of the region's first vines. The wines produced with legendary consultant Andre Tchelistcheff
under the Hoffman Mountain Ranch (HMR) label provided early proof that world-class wines could be grown in Paso Robles.

Today, the Von Steenwyk family owns a portion of that HMR vineyard as part of the Adelaida Cellars holdings that includes about 500 acres of walnut trees and 150 acres of vineyards. The winery, which originated in 1981, is located 14 miles east of the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,800 feet in the Santa Lucia mountain chain. Adelaida's wild and rugged mountainside vineyards are loaded with limestone and calcareous shale. According to winemaker Terry Culton, "these characteristics cause the vines to strengthen. This results in added stress on the vines, which lowers the yields but produces more intensely flavored fruit". In keeping with the winery's sustainable philosophy, the vineyards are not tilled, encouraging native grasses, wild sage and rosemary to flourish between the rows.

Adelaida produces from its own Estate vineyards and a select group of contracted vineyards on the west side of Paso Robles. The fruit for the Adelaida Cellars Version comes from the Glenrose Vineyard, at 1,200 – 1,600 feet in elevation and 16 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and is adjacent to their own Viking Estate Vineyard.

Adelaida Version (Rhone Style White) Glenrose Vineyard 2007 - (58% Roussanne, 42% Grenache Blanc) Beautiful lime, pear and honey aromas with thirst quenching acidity and a fresh minerally finish this is an amazing food wine! Try it with my recipe this week, Lidia Bastianich's Whole Roasted Fish.

Try this wine at our Friday Free All this week with Gabe Daigle, $21.99.

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