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).
“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.
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.
At Bellavitae in New York, we enjoyed serving the many celebrities who dined with us. As I wrote when we closed, “I’ve never been star struck, but it was always fun to have famous people in the restaurant, many of whom became regulars.”
Here in northern New Mexico, we dine with different kinds of stars – thousands of them twinkling above in the heavens. At an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, the dry Southwest sky is virtually free of humidity, dust, and manmade pollutants, enabling brilliant stars to penetrate the velvet darkness above.
This summer, The Blonde Bear Tavern will be serving a gourmet dinner on a moonless night to celebrate the stars: August 11th at 7:00 pm. Joining us will be Geoff Goins and Night Sky Adventures, who will show us the night’s universe, in real time, with our own eyes. After dessert, we’ll explore the night sky through one of the largest telescopes in New Mexico – with one of the best astronomy guides in the country.
The prix fixe menu is Piedmont-inspired – an Italian region also known for its spectacular Alpine night skies. And the dates correspond with Taos Ski Valley’s local chanterelle season – so if Mother Nature cooperates, these fabulous mushrooms will be a part of the menu.
Insalata di Lattuga con Pinoli e Parmigiano
Lettuce Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Parmigiano Shavings and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Fagiano con Chanterelle e Funghi Selvatici
Pheasant with Taos Ski Valley Chanterelle and Wild Mushroom Sauce
Gnocchi alla Parigina
Verdure di Stagione
Composta di Frutti di Bosco con Gelato
Mixed Berries sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar with Vanilla Gelato
Price: $28.95 per person + tax and gratuity, beverages not included. We will be offering several specially selected wines by the bottle and glass.
The Night Sky
Geoff promises a spectacular summer sky:
“Depending on the time of year, the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s great red spot and moons are all plainly visible. The polar ice caps, surface color variations and dust storms of Mars, the crescent phases, and beautiful cloud tops of Venus and the green disk of Uranus all show their beauty through the eyepiece. The space walk feel of the surface of the Moon at over 300 power is simply breathtaking.”
He encourages questions and guests are welcome to bring their own binoculars and to share their experiences.
One interesting note: The annual Perseids Meteor Shower – the most famous of all meteor showers – will be peaking around August 11th. It never fails to provide an impressive display and, due to its summertime appearance, tends to provide the majority of meteors seen by non-astronomy enthusiasts.
Please Join Us!
Pardon the pun, but if the planets align on this date, we’re sure to have a magical evening.
Seating is limited and reservations are essential. For more information or to make your reservation, call 575-737-6900.
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.
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 (!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Combine the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.
Stir half of the gremolata in the pot, reserving the balance for garnish. Let the ossobuco stand for 5 minutes, uncovered.
Assembling the Dish
Remove the shanks from the pot, remove the twine, and place each shank in a bowl, perhaps over polenta.
Ladle some braising liquid over each shank, and sprinkle the gremolata over each serving.
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.
Today’s brand-building through corporate-named stadiums and celebrity endorsements is nothing new. In fact, such marketing can be traced back to the Italian Renaissance. Virginia Postrel pens a fascinating article for Bloomberg that describes how “Renaissance art is full of status signals and calculated image-building — once-obvious messages that today’s tourists never notice.”
Brand-building through misleading images wasn’t invented on Madison Avenue or Hollywood. Many of Florence’s Renaissance treasures are monuments to exaggeration for the purposes of self-promotion. The medium may have changed, but the motives haven’t.
The Renaissance patrons who paid for all those frescoes, paintings, altar pieces and sculptures weren’t generally funding beauty for its own sake. They were buying status — building their brands, we’d say today. Their patronage showed off their wealth and piety and, in many cases, advertised their supposed links to the prestigious and powerful. In the process, these patrons often shaded the truth, leaving out unflattering facts and suggesting associations they didn’t in fact have.
I’ll never view Renaissance art in the same way again.
First thing Edoardo [President of the San Marzano Consortium] said was: maximum 1% of tomatoes in America sold as San Marzano are real San Marzano. Then, when I told him I would put it in writing, he said, OK, let’s say 5%, to be on the safe side. It is still huge! Shocking! Absolutely SHOCKING!!! It means that at least 95% of the tomatoes that you find in the supermarkets and that make a reference to San Marzano on their label, are not San Marzano; that you are paying a mark up for a fake product. It does not mean the product is not good; it means that the product is NOT San Marzano and should not be promoted as such.
If you do not see the prominently displayed DOP label, you are not getting certified San Marzanos. This is true even if there is “Italian” written on the can, and you see words like: “San Marzano Region,” – “San Marzano Type,” – “San Marzano Style” – “Imported Italian San Marzanos” = all of which are true. They could have been grown in the Campania region, or even in the DOP designated origins (dell’Agro Solerno-Nocerino region – see Map), however, that still doesn’t make them DOP certified.
And there is nothing wrong with being non-certified, if that’s what the consumer wants. San Marzano tomato “purists” won’t settle for anything that is not DOP certified and it’s all a matter of personal taste.
[We are neutral on the matter and just try to present the information as balanced as we can. Personally, I would prefer them from my own garden].
Regardless, buyers need to be aware of the language that is used as it can be a little misleading, even if what they have labeled is true. Other verbiage and adjectives used to label canned San Marzano tomatoes includes: Organic, Whole Peeled, Peeled Tomatoes, Product of Italy, Italian Style, All Natural Italian Style, and Prodotto in Italia to name most of them.
How do you know if you’re getting the real deal? The only way to know for certain is to look for the DOP label. Yes, the certification process adds a premium to any Italian product, but perhaps it’s a small price in order to guarantee the quality you’re looking for. It’s also wise to purchase through reliable importers like Gustiamo. I always do.
Click on the links below for more information. As we say in America: “Buyer Beware.”
Filippo Mazzei was an Italian physician, promoter of liberty, and – many argue – an American Patriot. He was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.
Mazzei and The Declaration of Independence
The quotation “All men are created equal” has been called an immortal declaration and perhaps the single phrase of the United States Revolutionary period with the greatest continuing importance. Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as a rebuttal to the going political theory of the day: the Divine Right of Kings. It was thereafter quoted or incorporated into speeches by a wide array of substantial figures in American political and social life.
Historians believe Thomas Jefferson borrowed the expression from his Italian friend and neighbor. In 1774, Filippo Mazzei wrote this for The Virginia Gazette:
“Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti. Quest’ eguaglianza è necessaria per costituire un governo libero. Bisogna che ognuno sia uguale all’altro nel diritto naturale.”
Translated by a friend and neighbor of Mazzei, it was published as follows:
“All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government. All men must be equal to each other in natural law.”
“The great doctrine ‘All men are created equal’ incorporated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, was paraphrased from the writing of Philip Mazzei, an Italian-born patriot and pamphleteer, who was a close friend of Jefferson. A few alleged scholars try to discredit Mazzei as the creator of this statement and idea, saying that “there is no mention of it anywhere until after the Declaration was published”. This phrase appears in Italian in Mazzei’s own hand, written in Italian, several years prior to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Mazzei and Jefferson often exchanged ideas about true liberty and freedom. No one man can take complete credit for the ideals of American democracy.”
In 1980, the United States Postal Service, in conjunction with its Italian counterpart, issued stamps commemorating the 280th anniversary of Mazzei’s birth.
Filippo Mazzei was born in Poggio a Caiano in Tuscany. He studied medicine in Florence and practiced it in Italy and the Middle East for several years before moving to London in 1755 to take up a career as a merchant. While in London he met the Americans Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams of Virginia, who persuaded him to undertake his next venture.
In 1773 Filippo Mazzei led a group of Italians who came to Virginia to introduce the cultivation of vineyards, olives, and other Mediterranean fruits. He became a neighbor and friend of Thomas Jefferson, and the two of them began what became the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Jefferson asked Mazzei to plant a vineyard at his estate in Monticello, Virginia. In a letter to Mazzei dated July 1, 1779, President George Washington wrote, “I thank you for your obliging act of the culture of the wine, and I am happy to hear that your plantation of them is in so prosperous a way.”
Jefferson and Mazzei shared an interest in politics and libertarian values, and maintained an active correspondence for the rest of Mazzei’s life. Mazzei began to establish his reputation as a patriot by joining the revolutionary war effort. He became a private in the “Independent Company” of Albemarle when the British first landed troops at Hampton. Jefferson gave him a copy of the “Rough Draught” of the Declaration of Independence, while an excerpt of Mazzei’s “Instructions of the Freeholders of Albemarle County to their Delegates in Convention” was used by Jefferson in his attempt to institute a new state constitution. Mazzei also signed a petition for Jefferson’s Committee on Religion to abolish spiritual tyranny. By 1778 it was decided by Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason and others that Mazzei’s efforts would be most useful abroad; he was sent to try to borrow money from the Grand Duke of Tuscany for Virginia and to gather useful political and military information for Governor Jefferson.
After briefly visiting the United States again in 1785, Mazzei travelled throughout Europe promoting Republican ideals. He wrote a political history of the American Revolution, “Recherches historiques et politiques sur les Etats-Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale”, and published it in Paris in 1788. As the first history of the American Revolution to be published in French, the book became known as a source about the truth of the American Revolution, a counterweight to British propaganda and French misinformation.
The success of his book led to his appointment as the Polish Chargé de Affaires in Paris. Mazzei furthered his career by moving to Warsaw to work as an agent for the enlightened King Stanislaus Augustus of Poland. The King had admired Mazzei’s efforts during the American and French revolutions, and Mazzei eventually helped to reestablish relations between France and Poland. He remained in Warsaw as the King’s privy councilor until the second division of Poland forced his retirement. He later spent more time in France and became active in the politics of the French Revolution under the Directorate. When Napoleon overthrew that government Mazzei returned to Pisa, Italy. He died there in 1816.
After his death the remainder of his family returned to the United States at the urging of Thomas Jefferson. They settled in Massachusetts and Virginia. Mazzei’s daughter married the nephew of John Adams.
The Mazzei Family
The history of the Mazzei family is closely linked not just to the history of winemaking in Tuscany, but to the political and cultural history of the entire region. The first documents that name the Mazzeis – originally from the winemaking area of Carmignano – date back to the early eleventh century.
The family coat of arms, bearing three wooden hammers, tools emblematic of the cooper’s trade, also dates back to this time. In the fourteenth century, the coat of arms instead displayed three iron maces that still adorn it today. Since the very beginning, the Mazzeis have been winemakers and active participants in Florentine cultural and commercial life, often times holding important posts in city government.
Ser Lapo Mazzei (1350-1412), a winemaker from Carmignano, dedicated to the art of making fine wine, was a Notary of the Florence city government and Proconsul of the Art of Judges and Notaries. His brother Lionardo also cultivated vineyards in Carmignano, in the Grignano estate, where he produced wine according to the instructions of his more expert brother, Ser Lapo.
There is an interesting series of correspondence between Ser Lapo Mazzei and Francesco Datini, the famous Merchant of Prato. The documents are rich in judicial and commercial advice and also contain many comments referring to agronomy and oenology. Winemaking, purchasing, and storage are recurrent themes in Ser Lapo’s letters: “Don’t concern yourself about the cost of the wine, though it be high: its goodness is restorative,” he wrote to Datini in 1394, inviting him to overcome his frugality and appreciate its quality.
Ser Lapo Mazzei is also considered the father of the Chianti name. He authored the first known document using the denomination, a commercial contract bearing his signature, dated December 16, 1398:
“To be paid, on December 16 (1398), 3 florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinars, to Piero di Tino Riccio, for 6 barrels of Chianti wine….the above pay by letter of Ser Lapo Mazzei.”
It is the granddaughter of Ser Lapo Mazzei, Madonna Smeralda, who was married to Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli, that the Mazzei family owes the ownership of the Fonterutoli estate, passed down from 1435 until today, across 24 generations.
Today, after almost six centuries, the Mazzei family — under the guidance of Lapo, who oversees the property with the help of his sons, Filippo and Francesco, — still devotes itself to winemaking, with a constant commitment, an eye towards innovation, and an abiding respect for the land.
I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Filippo and Francesco and their family, both at Bellavitae and in Tuscany. Their commitment to quality winemaking and the preservation of their family heritage makes it an honor to call them friends. The wine from the family’s estates reflects this commitment vintage after vintage. I urge you to try the wines from these historic vineyards. And this Independence Day, why not open a bottle and toast to a great American Patriot: Filippo Mazzei.
Pasta Sauce with Peas, Ham, and Cream, in the style of Emilia-Romagna
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
Black pepper, freshly grinded
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Making the Sauce
If you’re using fresh peas, shell from their pods; soak in cold water for five minutes, then drain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Boil and drain the pasta. Swirl a tablespoon of butter into the pasta, then toss with the sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
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
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.
From the day we opened Bellavitae, Casanova di Neri was one of the most important wineries on our wine list. We went through cases and cases of Giacomo Neri’s wine, from the Rosso, to White Label, the Tenuta Nuova, Pietradonice, and finally the Cerretalto. Giacomo was a frequent guest at Bellavitae and our guests loved his wines!
Wine Spectator magazine named the 2001 Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino the best wine in the world a few years ago. How can you top that? With the 2006 vintage, which James Suckling describes:
“a perfect wine with everything in proportion from the ripe fruit and fine tannins to the bright acidity and rich alcohol . . . 100 points.”
Click here to watch a quick interview and tasting with James Suckling and Giacomo in his dinning room in Montalcino. See Giacomo’s emotional response when James tells him the wine is perfection.
“So much ripe fruit here with currants and sultanas, yet fresh and very clean. Dark berries too. Incredible ripe Sangiovese character. Full body, with masses of fruit and chewy tannins. Plus, there’s black licorice and dried berries. Give it time to soften. What a bottle. Will it ultimately be better than 2001 Tenuta Nuova? Yes. Best after 2013”
I believe that Giacomo has been a successful winemaker because he’s a farmer at heart. The great wines are first made in the vineyard, not the cellar. Casanova di Neri isn’t always easy to find, as the vintages usually sell out. I see that wine.com has the 2005 Tenuta Nuova vintage still in stock. To purchase, click here.