Ricette Classiche: Fritedda


The change of season is always something seasonal cooks look forward to.  At Bellavitae, we would welcome spring with fresh asparagus, peas, fava beans, artichokes, and morels.

In springtime, we should celebrate freshness, whether fruits and vegetables and served cooked or raw.  A perfect illustration of this is the classic Sicilian dish fretedda (also called fritella – in Greece it’s koukia me anginares, in Rome it’s la vignarola and fresh peas are added).  It’s a much-loved Mediterranean stew that is made at the end of the artichoke season and beginning of the fava bean season.

Best of Sicily magazine writer Roberta Gangi provides her recipe here.  Clifford A. Wright offers his here.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ Greek version is here.  Note that while these recipes differ significantly, I would label them each authentic (my views on authenticity of classic recipes will be saved for another post when I have time for such a rant).

Reader Gida Ingrassia recently commented on my May 2010 post In Season: Asparagus and Fava Beans:

“I am looking for a recipe to make Sicilian “fritedda” with fava beans, asparagus, onions, peas and artichokes. Do you use regular artichokes and pare them down or are artichoke hearts necessary? Please advise.”

Well, I suppose I have already answered the question in the introduction!  To understand this dish you need to understand its purpose:  It is served in the Mediterranean when the artichoke and fava bean seasons cross.  It celebrates spring freshness.  So use fresh!

Gangi, Wright, and Jenkins give you specific instructions on how to cook the artichokes.  Buy the youngest available, boil the hearts and tender leaves until partially forgiving but not yet quite soft enough to eat.  Then add the other ingredients for further cooking.

Pianogrillo Farm Olive Oil

Here are some tips for success:

  • Make this dish as soon as fava beans come into season.  Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal:  “It’s true that favas left to mature on their stalks too long will have a leathery skin that must be removed. Like peas, favas should be harvested and consumed when they are young.”
  • Don’t listen to the food snobs who insist you peel the beans after they’ve been shucked.  Again from Jenkins:  “How tiresome—and unnecessary. That’s not how it’s done in Italy. Or in Greece, Spain, Lebanon, Great Britain or anywhere else the beans are a spring staple. Only in France do they call for peeling the beans. Go figure.”
  • Use only the freshest ingredients.  Avoid dried favas, bottled artichoke hearts, or canned peas (in a pinch, I may use frozen peas).
  • Use Sicilian olive oil!  This tip will transform the dish from very good to phenomenal!  My favorite Sicilian olive oil is Pianogrillo Farm Extra Virgin Olive Oil available from Gustiamo or Amazon.

Thanks for the question, Gida.  Let us know how it turns out.




Further Reading:

Ricette Classiche: Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are few American dishes more classic than chocolate chip cookies.  Traced back to the Nestlé company, which placed the recipe for Toll House cookies on the back of its chocolate chip bags in 1939, these delicacies have been baked by Americans for generations.

I’ve run across countless recipes and variations for chocolate chip cookies, but here’s one that struck my eye, for a number of reasons.  The recipe is provided by Barbara Cosgriff, whom I met when I was Managing Director of The Nasdaq Stock Market.  She and I instantly became great friends and after I left Wall Street to open Bellavitae, Barbara and her husband were constant guests.

Barbara shares her recipe as guest blogger on the Behind the Scenes at La Cuisine blog.  “My mom made the delicious recipe on the chocolate chip bag.  This recipe has evolved from my having baked thousands of them…and the little tweaks that come from experience.”

Click below for Barbara’s recipe:




Why Barbara’s Recipe is so Special (and why it works!)

  • Top-shelf ingredients.  As any good cook will tell you, the best ingredients will result in the best recipe.  No skimping here.  You can order most everything online from La Cuisine.
  • Chilled ingredients.  As Barbara notes, if the batter is warm, the cookies will run (overspread).
  • A combination of brown and white sugars.  Although both sugars Barbara uses are “brown” (i.e., they contain molasses), the combination really represents a mix of brown and white sugars.  Brown sugar will attract and retain water (“hygroscopic”), rendering the cookies chewy.  Too much brown sugar and they will become, well, floppy.  The white sugar (about a quarter to a third of the total sugar) will add firmness and crispiness.
  • Baking soda.  Many cookie recipes use baking powder, which acts as a leavener when the batter is exposed to heat.  But baking powder is more appropriate for cakey cookies, not chewy cookies like chocolate chip.  Moreover, a crispy exterior is almost impossible to achieve using baking powder.  Baking powder would actually make the cookies crisp from the inside out, not a good thing here.  The acid needed to activate the baking soda in this recipe comes from the brown sugar’s molasses.
  • Low-protein flour.  Barbara uses an Italian “Tipo 00” flour, which has a lower protein content.  A high percentage of protein creates a harder (stronger) flour best suited for chewy, crusty breads and other yeast-risen products.  Less protein produces a softer flour, best for tender and chemically leavened baked goods, like pie crusts, cakes, cookies, and biscuits.
  • Don’t cream the butter.  Creaming butter is a wonderful technique that encourages cakes to rise nicely, as well as cakey cookies.  The sugar crystals act as extra beaters and will aerate the butter, enabling chemical leaveners to do their trick as the cake is baked.
  • Let the batter rest.  Allowing the cookie dough to rest will result in the sugars further dissolving.  This dissolved sugar will caramelize more readily and produce a crisp exterior that is juxtaposed by a chewy interior with a complexity of butter, caramel, toffee, and chocolate.


High Altitude Adjustments

Of all baked goods, cookies are generally the easiest to make at high altitudes.  However, once you reach 10,000 feet (as we are here inTaosSkiValley), things get a little tricky.  Here are some adjustments I would make to Barbara’s recipe for readers at this altitude:

  • Increase the flour by ¾ to 1 cup
  • Reduce the India Light Muscovado Sugar by 2 ½ tablespoons (this prevents overspread)
  • Increase the vanilla by 1 to 2 teaspoons (adds flavor to compensate for reduced sugar)
  • Reduce baking temperature by 50°F – to 300°F
  • Bake longer – an extra 4 to 5 minutes




Further Reading:  





Oktoberfest 2012: Two Classic Recipes


Andreas and Ingeborg Dirnagl (left) enjoying the 1957 Oktoberfest, Munich*



Oktoberfrest is a 16-day festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.  It runs from late September to the first weekend in October.  Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous events and is considered the world’s largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year.  Countless communities across the world also celebrate this beer festival, and Taos Ski Valley is no exception!  Our celebration is Saturday, September 15th.


History of Oktoberfest

Theresienwiese (Photo courtesy The Oktoberfest Website)

Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King, married Princess Terese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.  Everyone in Munich was invited to the festivities held on the fields at the city gates.  The fields were  named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”) in honor of the Princess.  The locals refer to the field as Wies’n.

Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the event’s closing that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria.  The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.


Two Classic Dishes

Along with the ubiquitous bratwurst, pretzels, and (of course) beer, there are two other dishes that abound during Oktoberfest season:  Obatzda (cheese and beer dip on rye bread) and Datschi (fruit-topped cake).

I turned to The Blonde Bear Tavern’s Consulting Chef, Andreas Dirnagl,  for these classic recipes (klassischen Rezepten).  Andreas’s parents (pictured above) are Bavarian natives, who moved to the United States shortly after their 1957 marriage.



Photo courtesy Klaus-Maria Einwanger

Chef Andreas gives us background:

A Bavarian specialty in the beer gardens, Obatzda is really more of a spread than a dip. Use a good hearty rye or dark bread (sliced works best).  Place a slice of bread on a plate with a scoop of the spread on top.  Garnish with onion, chive, and paprika.  You can also serve radishes with salt and butter on the side.  Yum!



  • 1 pound Camembert (or Brie) cheese, coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces cream cheese (or pungent Romadur), softened
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup dark German ale
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 pinch sweet paprika
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Spanish onions, finely diced
  • 1 loaf rye or French bread

Preparing Obatzda

  1. Lightly toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan
  2. Place garlic in a small baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt.  Pour a bit of water in the bottom of the dish, cover tightly with foil, and roast in 375° oven for about an hour.
  3. Place the Camembert in a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, butter, ale, garlic, and caraway seeds
  4. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste; beat well to combine
  5. Take about 2/3 of the onions and sauté in olive oil until golden
  6. In a strainer, rinse the remaining raw onions under cold water; drain and transfer to a clean kitchen towel, squeezing out the liquid.  Combine with sautéed onions
  7. Fold onion mixture into the cheese mixture
  8. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 4 days.

Note:  For a more authentic texture, set aside about 1/3 of the Camembert in a small dice and then fold it into the finished product.  You may also use a bit of the rind.



Datschi (pronounced dah-chi) is a Bavarian word that means any of a variety of fruit-topped cake.   Again, Chef Andreas gives us background:

Photo courtesy Deutschland Card

Commonality is that the dough is pressed into a straight sided pan (Datschi comes from the verb detschen, which means “to smoosh”).  There is no rim built up on the edges of the dough, and it is topped with some form of fresh fruit.  Streusel topping is optional.  The dessert is served simply on a small plate, usually topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

These cakes are a mainstay of every Bavarian bakery and major open air festival, as they can be made in big sheets.  Fruit topping is variable, although plum is the most common.  If you want authenticity, you need Italian plums.  Remember in baking – if it eats sour, it bakes sweet and vice versa.  Italian plums look kind of like plum tomatoes (as opposed to regular plums, which are round) and are quite sour if you eat them raw.  When you bake them they become sweet / sour.

This recipe is from my mom, Inge, and is quite common in the Bavarian neighborhood where she grew up:



For the Cake

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
  • about 40 Italian plums, pitted and quartered

For the Optional Streusel

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted


Preparing Datschi

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend 30 seconds.
  2. Add the cubed butter and process until crumbly.
  3. Combine eggs, vanilla, and rum (it will look slightly curdled).  Add to the food processor bowl and process until the dough just begins to form (it will look and feel like soft sugar cookie dough).
  4. Turn out and roll the dough, forming a thick log the length of a 26″ by 18″ “half sheet” pan.  Place down the center of the pan and use your hands and knuckles to push dough into all corners and edges of the pan.  It should be flat, with no “rim” on the sides.
  5. Place the fruit on top in a decorative, repetitive pattern (with an eye towards cutting servings into squares or rectangles.
  6. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven until the dough rises slightly between the fruit slices and the fruit has softened and begins to brown slightly, about 30 minutes.
  7. If not topping with the optional streusel, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar after about 10 minutes of baking.


For optional streusel:

  1. Combine all ingredients except butter, and mix well.
  2. Drizzle with butter, and using fingertips, combine to form streusel.
  3. Sprinkle over fruit topping before baking.



If using apples, use a tart variety.  Peel, core, and slice into about 1/2″ wedges.  You can also use about a 1/4 inch layer of apricot or raspberry jam or jelly if you have no fruit on hand.  If using jam or jelly topping, then streusel is no longer optional – rather double the streusel recipe and completely cover the jam/ jelly topping with streusel before baking.


Oktoberfest at Taos Ski Valley

This year looks to be the biggest and best Oktoberfest in Taos Ski Valley.  And it’s FREE fun for all ages.

The day will feature an authentic Schuplatter band and dancers, German beer and food, activities for kids, Brat eating contest, Yodeling contest, Alpenhorn blowing contests, and more.

Our Village stores will be offering pre-season blowout prices on ski gear and sporting apparel.

  • Festival Times: 11am to 6pm
  • Christof Brownell 11am – 6pm
  • Schuplatter Band 2pm – 6pm
  • Comedy time with Petey Tang – 2pm
  • Bouncy Castle, face painting and Family fun


*A Note about the Black and White Photo Above:

At my request, Andreas sent me an Oktoberfest picture with his mom (whose Datschi recipe she graciously shared) and dad (who is now deceased).  He sent the following accompanying message, which I think bears repeating:

The year was 1957 and Mom was 28.  This is Oktoberfest as it used to be. Mom is on the left with my dad immediately behind her.  They would have been married all of 4 months at this point. Behind my dad is my grandfather (mom’s dad).  The woman on the right is my Aunt Maria and the man with his arm around her shoulder is her husband, my Uncle Siegried (my dad’s brother).  The other man is a stranger who photo bombed the picture.

Mom says that she and my Aunt went for a walk to see the sights at Oktoberfest and the men stayed back in the tent to save the seats.  By the time they got back, the men were ripped and as she passed by to sit down my uncle grabbed her beret and wore it for the picture.


International Day of Italian Cuisines: Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese


The Virtual Group of Italian Chefs celebrates its 5th Annual International Day of Italian Cuisines today as hundreds of chefs in over 40 countries around the world prepare and serve Ossobuco in Gremolata using an authentic recipe.

Click on map to see participating chefs (continuously updated)

The Blonde Bear Tavern is joining the celebration, and you can, too.  Learn the history of this centuries-old iconic dish, along with an in-depth look at the optimal ingredients and their correct proportion, as we reveal our famed recipe here.



Ricette Classiche: Ossobuco in Gremolata alla Milanese



Italians are masters of braising meats, and ossobuco is a perfect example. Take a relatively cheap cut of meat with lots of connective tissue,  Braise it until the tough tissues melt, coating the meat fibers, rendering them soft and silky.  As with Brasato, the meat will develop a velvety texture and delicious, earthy flavor, but with the added luxury of unctuous bone marrow.

Ossobuco is a centuries-old Lombard recipe of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine, and broth.  It is typically garnished with gremolata, a combination of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic.  The most traditional accompaniments to the dish are risotto alla milanese, polenta, or mashed potatoes.

The dish is famous world-wide, and its recipe has been published extensively outside of Italy.  It was featured in Henri-Paul Pellaprat’s famous L’Art Culinaire Moderne, published in France in 1935, and the British Italian Food, by Elizabeth David, first published in 1954.  The dish has become a part of the French home cooking tradition, known as ossobucco à la milanaise (with added butter (!)

Every January 17th — for the last five years — the Virtual Group of Italian Chefs (GVCI) promotes one authentic Italian recipe on its International Day of Italian Cuisines (IDIC).  We were honored to participate the last two years with a couple of Bellavitae signature dishes:  Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese, and Pesto Genovese.  The previous years featured Pasta alla Carbonara and Risotto alla Milanese.

The International Day of Italian Cuisines is born from a mission, as explained by Rosario Scarpato, GVCI Honorary President and last year’s IDIC Director:

“We certainly aim at educating worldwide consumers, but more than anything else, we want to protect their right to get what they pay for when going to eateries labeled as ‘Italian’; that is, authentic and quality Italian cuisine.”

So in celebratory spirit we participate again this year, right here at The Blonde Bear Tavern.  Ossobuco is a perfect entree after skiing all day.  Come join us this Tuesday, January 17th, for our preparation of ossobuco.


 Lombardy – Birthplace of Ossobuco

Bellagio, on the shores of Lake Como.


Ossobuco traces its beginnings to Lombardy (“Lombardia” in Italian), and many believe to Milan, although there is some controversy about that.  Lombardy is a large region in the north of Italy.  The river Po forms a natural boundary in the south, the Alps to the north, with Lakes Garda on the east and Maggiore and Como on the West.

Click to enlarge

The regional cuisine of Lombardy is based upon ingredients like maize, rice, beef, pork, butter, and lard.  Despite being a form of Italian cuisine, Lombard food tends to have little in common with Central or Southern Italian dishes, in many cases lacking the presence of tomato and olive oil, being more meat-based and buttery.  In many ways, Lombard cuisine has much in common with that of Austria and much of central Europe in general.

But as Italian cuisine, Lombard food is full of variety and every city and part of the region offers its own specialties.  A characteristic Lombard dish is risotto, most famously risotto alla milanese (which is made with saffron), with rice-based food being highly common throughout the region.  Similar to risotto, maize-based dishes such as polenta are also common.  Other famous Lombard dishes include cotoletta, cassoeula, and of course ossobuco.  The region also offers several delicacies and desserts, including mostarda and panettone.  Regional cheeses include Robiola, Crescenza, Taleggio, Gorgonzola and Grana Padano.


What to drink with Ossobuco

Which wines pair well with Ossobuco?  Ask the expert, Luca Gardini, named the world’s best sommelier last year.  His recommendations are here.


The History of Ossobuco

The word ossobuco (“oss bus” in Milanese dialect) means “bone with a hole” (osso bone, buco hole), a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.

Milan claims to be the birth city of ossobuco and in 2007, the City Council declared it as part of the De.Co. (Denominazioni Comunali or community denominations), which is an official public acknowledgement that a dish belongs to a certain territory.

The use of marrow bones and veal shanks was common in Middle Age Italian cuisine, but there is no evidence of the presence of ossobuco as a dish at that time.  The recipe is believed to have first appeared in Pellegrino Artusi’s cookbook La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), the first collection of Italian national cuisine ever published.  The book celebrates both home cooking and well-known dishes from all over Italy.  These dishes were well-established, indicating the dish had been around for decades, most likely originating in one of the region’s osterie or trattorie.

 The Ingredients (for six servings)

For the Ossobuco:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 veal shanks, cut 1 ½ inches thick, patted dry and tied tightly around the middle
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 medium onions, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 medium celery ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 cups veal or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
For the Gremolata:
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons garlic cloves, chopped very, very fine
  • 2 teaspoons grated minced lemon zest
A note on the ingredients:
  • The best ossobuco is made from the meatier hind leg, so ask your butcher for this cut.
  • Have the shanks cut no thicker than 1 ½ inches.  Thicker cuts may look impressive, but need to cook longer and slower, otherwise it will end up being stringy and chewy.
  • The shanks are better with the skin left on, which helps to keep the ossobuco together while it cooks.  Moreover, the creamy consistency of the skin adds a fabulous mouth-feel and flavor to the final dish.
  • Veal  broth (not stock) is preferable in this dish, but if it’s unavailable, use chicken broth.  Beef broth is not optimal here, but you can use a mixture of half beef and half chicken broth.
  • Using stock in this recipe (instead of broth) will create disappointing results.  Broth is subtler, and will produce an optimum flavor profile.  Frankly, stock is never used in Italian cooking; if used in this recipe (with the shank’s bone marrow) will put the dish, well, over the top.
  • Sometime during the 1960s or ’70s, cooks began dredging the shanks in flour before browning.  I don’t particularly like this method, and find that the elimination of the technique produces a better flavor.  But it’s still authentic to do so.

Preparing Ossobuco

Preheat the oven to 325°F and adjust the rack to the lower middle portion, so the Dutch oven will rest in the middle of the oven.

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Season both sides of the veal shanks with salt and pepper
  2. Place 3 of the shanks in the pan and cook until they are golden on one side, about 6 minutes.  Guild the other side of the shanks, about 6 minutes longer.
  3. Remove shanks from Dutch oven and place in a bowl.  Off heat, add ½ cup of the white wine to the Dutch oven, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.  Pour the liquid into the bowl of shanks.
  4. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and repeat the process with the remaining 3 shanks, guilding both sides in the same amount of olive oil and butter, then placing them with the original 3 shanks.  De-glaze the Dutch oven again using 1 more cup of white wine.  Pour the liquid over the six shanks.
  5. Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and butter.  Saute the onion until translucent.  Then add the celery and Bay leaf and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.  Finally, add the carrot and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Increase the heat to high and add the broth and remaining 1 cup of wine. Add the tomatoes.  Return the veal shanks to the pot, arranging in a single, tight layer.   Ensure the open end (or larger opening) of each bone is facing up so the marrow doesn’t fall out during braising.  The liquid should just cover the shanks – if not, add more broth.  If there is too much liquid, remove some with a spoon.
  7. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven.   Cook the shanks until the meat is easily pierced with a fork, but not falling off the bone, about 2 hours.
Preparing the Gremolata
  1. Combine the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.
  2. Stir half of the gremolata in the pot, reserving the balance for garnish.  Let the ossobuco stand for 5 minutes, uncovered.


Assembling the Dish
  1. Remove the shanks from the pot, remove the twine, and place each shank in a bowl, perhaps over polenta.
  2. Ladle some braising liquid over each shank, and sprinkle the gremolata over each serving.


Further Reading:


Ossobuco, the perfect winter dish, most satisfying after a vigorous run down the mountain.  Too tired to make it yourself?  Join us and hundreds of other chefs around the world on January 17th.  Enjoy this famous dish, evolved over centuries, right here at The Blonde Bear Tavern.


What to do with Leftover Easter Ham? Try this Amazing Pasta Sauce

Sugo di Piselli, Prosciutto Cotto, e Panna

Pasta Sauce with Peas, Ham, and Cream, in the style of Emilia-Romagna

Photo Courtesy Divine Domesticity



This Easter I made an All-American holiday brunch for my sister, nephew (the creator of this website), and his lovely new wife Liz.  We feasted on ham with an orange-Dijon glaze, scalloped potatoes, fresh fruit drowned in Moscato, and gargantuan homemade cinnamon rolls.

Of course we had lots of leftovers, especially ham.  With fresh early peas now finding their way into farmers’ markets, what better way to enjoy leftover ham than Sugo di Piselli, Prosciutto Cotto, e Panna [Pasta Sauce with Peas, Ham, and Cream]?

One glance at the ingredients and you quickly surmise this pasta dish is from Emilia-Romagna.  Very rich and bursting with flavor, the sauce traditionally welcomes the spring season.  And it’s easy to make!

If you’re not able to find fresh peas, you can always substitute frozen early peas.  You can use either fresh or dried pasta — see the suggested shapes below.


  • 2 pounds fresh early peas (in their pods) OR 1 cup frozen early peas (thawed)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus additional 1 tablespoon to mix with the pasta
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup ham, chopped into matchsticks ¼ inch wide
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly grinded
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated


Making the Sauce

  1. If you’re using fresh peas, shell from their pods; soak in cold water for five minutes, then drain.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan on medium high heat, add the peas and ¼ cup of water.  When it reaches the boiling point, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes then add salt.  Continue cooking until the peas are tender.  The time needed to reach tenderness can vary wildly, depending on the freshness of the peas, and how young they are.
  4. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of the butter on medium in a large skillet and sauté the onion until it becomes lightly golden. (If you are using frozen peas, begin the recipe at this point, using four tablespoons of butter to sauté the onion).  Add the ham and stir for about a minute.
  5. If using frozen peas, add them to the skillet after the onion is golden and the ham has been added.  If using fresh peas, add to the sautéed onion and ham, then cook an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cream and grind fresh black pepper liberally.  Turn the heat up to high (don’t worry, if the cream is fresh it will never curdle), stir frequently and let reduce to a fairly dense consistency.
  7. Boil and drain the pasta.  Swirl a tablespoon of butter into the pasta, then toss with the sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Suggested Pasta

Garganelli (photo courtesy Federico Stevanin)


  • The most traditional pasta for this sauce is fresh garganelli, although dried garganelli also works well
  • Other fresh pasta suitable for this sauce include fettuccine or tagliatelle
  • Dried pastas for this sauce include conchiglie [shells], penne, or maccheroncini



Pasta all’Uova Fatta in Casa: The Joy and Satisfaction of Making Homemade Egg Pasta


Ricette Classiche: Lasagne Verdi al Forno

Baked Spinach Lasagne with Meat Sauce in the style of Bologna

Italy’s most famous baked pasta is lasagne!  Historians have traced the dish back to at least Roman times, believing its name derives from the Latin lasania [cooking pot], and possibly to ancient Greece.

Lasagne has been widely adopted throughout Italy, with each region placing its own imprimatur on the dish.  In Bologna, lasagne is made with fresh spinach pasta and layered with classic ragù alla Bolognese.  In Liguria, lasagne is made with pesto (although sometimes the boiled pasta sheets are simply tossed with pesto [Genoa’s mandilli de sæa al pesto]).  Neapolitans layer tomato sauce and mozzarella between the pasta sheets, and Calabrians prefer ricotta salata. In Piedmont, I’ve had lasagne with mushrooms and ham; and lasagne with artichokes is, well, sublime.

This dish takes quite a bit of time to prepare, but in our view it’s worth the effort.  You can make the ragù alla Bolognese ahead of time.  Also, once fully assembled, you can hold lasagne verdi al forno in the refrigerator for two full days if tightly sealed with plastic wrap.  Just allow it to return to room temperature before baking.

Continue reading “Ricette Classiche: Lasagne Verdi al Forno”

Ricette Classiche: Ragù alla Bolognese


Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese [Fresh Egg Pasta Ribbons with Meat Sauce in the style of Bologna] was our most popular pasta dish at Bellavitae.  It appeared on the menu when we opened the brick oven every autumn, and lasted into the cold winter months when the oven’s open fire was roaring to keep everything in the restaurant toasty.  There is nothing more satisfying in the dead of winter than a comforting bowl of homemade egg pasta with beef ragù.

Ragù alla Bolognese is a centuries-old recipe, where beef is combined with a perfect balance of chopped vegetables and left to sputter for hours over low heat, rendering it succulent and deeply flavored.  I know of nothing that so easily warms the soul.

This ragù is very easy to make; the only challenge is that of time.  It freezes beautifully or you can hold it in the refrigerator for at least three days.  Ours is a most authentic recipe and once you try it you’ll understand why any imitation or variation (some say bastardization) is simply not acceptable – and why the original became so famous.

Continue reading “Ricette Classiche: Ragù alla Bolognese”

Purè di Patate – Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil and Garlic

Sometimes more traditional mashed potatoes, such as those in the style of Bologna, don’t quite fit with whatever main course you’re serving.  The texture is perfect, but the added dairy (butter and half & half) may not contribute the flavors you’re looking for.  A cleaner version of this satisfying way to make potatoes is to replace the dairy with a high-quality olive oil and a hint of garlic.  I loved these mashed potatoes while staying in the south of Italy; here is my attempt to replicate the recipe:

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Pasta Verde: Making Your Own Spinach Pasta

Once you’ve learned to make your own fresh egg pasta, it’s a breeze to make Italy’s most famous flavored pasta – spinach pasta [pasta verde].

Pasta verde can be used for tortellini, for pastas with sauces containing earthy mushrooms, and of course for Lasagne Verdi al Forno [Baked Spinach Lasagne in the style of Bologna].  You can make it with either fresh or frozen spinach — and the results surprisingly similar.  Here’s how:

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