Category Archives: maiale

Fegatelli, ancora for a snowy day

It’s snowing. We are at a halt in the countryside, other than the slow proceeding to town to vote by all my neighbors. They’ve been so dispirited about this election that I’m grateful that they gathered the nerve to go. I have very good neighbors.

Anyway, I have been challenged to make a dish that is something filled or stuffed. I’m still on a reduced carbohydrate diet, so many dishes were tempting but not sensible. After all, with the roads as slick as a con-man’s spiel, who would eat them before I lost my self-control? And so I am making fegatelli. Almost no one makes this dish nowadays and it’s a crying shame, because it is one of the most distinctively Italian dishes, really unlike anybody else’s food, in my opinion. I haven’t made it since 2005.

This is what I will fill
This is what I will fill

This la rete, or the net. It is sometimes called net fat in English. It’s a natural part of the pig, thin and light and stretchy, and is the web by which my recipe hangs. I’m not sure it will be accepted as a filled dish. I’m pretty sure no one will make this top on their list of things to try. That’s a shame, too. It’s just delicious. In other countries than Italy you need a butcher to ask for it and for pork liver in a piece, rather than slices. You also need fresh bay leaves, and you may for the first time discover what bay leaf actually tastes like, because here it’s a distinguishable note, not just a simmered-in part of a herbal symphony.

Assuming your liver has come from a proper vendor and arrives already cleaned of veins and membranes, start here.  If it has those things you will need to prepare it yourself before beginning.

Cut the liver into chunks and the rete into pieces just big enough to fasten around them. You lay a chunk of liver on the net, then add a bay leaf and then make a gift package of it, fastening with a toothpick. Do them all.

Heat a capacious frying pan to moderate heat, and add a thin coating of olive oil. Place the fegatelli into it, then lower the heat to low. I usually put a couple of scraps of the net fat into the oil so that when they simmer I can see the pan is ready. All you need now is patience, because the fegatelli cook slowly, always slowly, and you have to turn them as the bottoms brown, using tongs. I find that they need turning when the bottom browns enough to be free of the pan, since they stick at first. It takes a bit of attention to get all six sides browned, since some want to topple. When they are nearly done, lightly salt them. It takes less salt than meat usually does, and I don’t know why.

When you surmise they might be done, after perhaps 30 minutes of slow cooking, take one out and cut it in two. It should be distinctly pink inside, but not the maroon of raw liver.

Cooking the fegatelli
Cooking the fegatelli

As you can see, some have just been turned and the rest are just as they were when put in the pan.

Ready to serve
Ready to serve

So this is what you have when you’ve finished. The rete has disappeared, melted into the olive oil and providing a delicate flavor you can get no other way. I serve them just like this, warning diners to remove the bay leaf as they cut them. While not as dangerous as dried bay leaf, these are definitely chewy and not terribly pleasant.

I would deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine, drizzle the resultant sauce sparingly over the fegatelli and serve with roasted or fried potatoes. A crunchy contract will be nice with the meaty chunks. Heck, if you’re going to eat liver cooked in pig fat why not fried potatoes, too? You can always have a nice salad afterward.

Rest the meat for 10 minutes and the red will disappear
Rest the meat for 10 minutes and the red will disappear

If you don’t eat them more often than every five years, I think you will come to no harm.

Paccheri from the oven

This is an experiment in presenting a new recipe for a new dish. Throughout the recipe I will place photos of the dish, and at the end we can decide which of the photos is most likely to make someone want to cook it or eat it.

From the oven paccheri

The dish is yummy, and it could easily have been made another way, but I’ve been pondering on how to make a first course that could be plated in the kitchen and made to look quite special. If I baked it in flat layers it would just look like another lasagna. If I just casseroled it, it would look like baked ziti. I wanted something arranged, orderly, presented, in short. I had in mind to make individual ramekins, but mine are all too small and besides 15 of them would be too much for most ovens when I cook for larger groups. I will make this only when I am cooking with an assistant who can run them to the table, because they’d all get cold if I were doing it all on my own.

paccheri presentation
I haven’t really named it, either. It’s paccheri, of course, and it’s stuffed, and the filling is Sicilian inspired, but it’s not from Sicily, it’s from the nutty cook in Umbria. Have a look at the ingredients and see what you think about a name. Paccheri may not be easy to find where you are, but if you make manicotti and cut them in half it will look about the same, if a bit larger mouthed. You’d reduce the number because each would hold more stuffing.

Paccheri your serving
When buying a sausage for this dish, look for the leanest ones possible. You can use salted capers if you like, but rinse them and soak them in milk before using them if you do. The ones I used are just pickled in brine and I did nothing to them. The cheese to use can be any decently mature cheese that is still soft enough to melt. It might be Fontina, Bel Paese, or another you like. I used Pecorino because it is universally available in Italy and it’s really, really good. Sometimes Pecorino in other countries is not.

Paccheri (senza nome)

For two people

Preheat the oven to 175°C or 350° F

24 paccheri, boiled to al dente in salted water, rinsed in cold water and drained


2 Italian sausages, split and meat removed
a piece of fresh bread, a cube 3 cm X3cm X 5cm or 1″ X 1″ X 2″, torn in pieces
1 tablespoon or less of milk to soak the bread
¼ teaspoon minced dried chili (peperoncino)
1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
2 heaped tablespoons of pine nuts, dry toasted in a pan
½ a beaten egg (beat it in a little bowl and take half)

about 1 cup (250 ml) simplest homemade tomato sauce
a tablespoon or so of fresh oregano, marjoram or basil
about 1 ounce (30 g) semi-soft Pecorino, grated coarsely

Mix all of the Stuffing ingredients together, squishing thoroughly with your hands. Find a shallow ovenproof dish that is just about the size of all your paccheri stood up on end. Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom, spreading it around, then a little of the tomato sauce, tipping to spread that as well.

Using a teaspoon, one by one, pick up the paccheri and stuff some of the meat mixture into each one. Alternatively and probably easier, pick up a little of the mixture and roll it into a small sausage shape between your palms, then slip it into a pacchero. As each is filled, stand it up in the pan until you have run out of filling. I ran out after 18 paccheri. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the standing pasta, then scatter the fresh herb, then add the grated Pecorino over that.

Put it into the heated oven and bake about 40 minutes until the sausage centers are done. I measured the temperature at 160°F, and left it to finish the climb from reserved heat.

Garnish with sprigs of whichever herb you used. Optionally you may wish to add a few drops of olive oil for gleam. Eat immediately, really hot.

Notice that I did not add any salt. Umbrian sausages are extremely salty. Capers are salty. I did not need a single grain of salt. If you live somewhere else, your sausages may not be so salty and you may need to add a little to the stuffing.

[photopress:Paccheri_presented.JPG,thumb,pp_image] If you click on the photos, they’ll pop up on a dark background and be easier to judge. Which one do you think would tempt you to eat this?

If none look good to you, I want to know that, too, but I’d also like to know the reason why!

And now, having figured out exactly where it is this week, I am proposing this dish to Presto Pasta Night, hosted this week by Closet Cooking. When you look at that blog, you can see what is possible in countries that have closets.

Home cookery: Italian version

This is basic. Day to day Italian home cooking is not about recipes. It’s about what’s available. No two days will likely be anything like each other. Just like in your house.


In that frying pan are:
1 leftover raw sausage
2 cloves of sliced garlic
4 inches of leftover leek, sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
a pinch of crushed red chili pepper
extra virgin olive oil, about 3 tablespoons of it
salt to taste

That’s what was in my kitchen yesterday, every bit of it left over from some other meal except the garlic which is always around.

In the kitchen freezer was also a small packet of fresh lasagne pasta, leftover from Easter. I thawed them a bit then used a knife to cut them into 2 cm / 3/4″ wide strips. I tossed those into boiling salted water.

pasta boiling

It doesn’t take long to boil fresh pasta. Freezing it dries it a bit, so it takes longer than if you’d just made it, but it’s the difference between one minute and two, once the water boils again.

The things in the frying pan cook while the pasta water comes to a boil, then once the pasta is in I add a ladle or two of pasta water to the frying pan. The tomatoes will actually taste better if you add them just before the pasta water, but that doesn’t photograph so well.

When the pasta is done but quite chewy, drain it and add to the frying pan, tossing around a bit. Then add some cheese you grated before and toss some more. It will look like this before you toss it.

almost done

If I lived in a different place, those ingredients would be different. If I lived near the sea there might be a handful of shrimps instead of a sausage. If it were summer there might be some vegetables that were dropped off by a friend with a garden. If it’s Monday the ingredients may be somewhat richer because they are left from Sunday. If it’s Friday they make look a little spare because the week’s money is running out and you haven’t been to the market yet. If the ingredients are very slim, I’ll probably spice them more.

I and the strictest of Italian cooks and mums buy only what’s in season or what’s preserved. We don’t throw in the last sausage and say what the heck, because too much really is too much. We don’t add herbs and spices unless we have in mind an outcome that requires them. Of a possible fourteen cooked meals a week, maybe three or four are planned out before the trip to the market. The rest of them are made on the spot from whatever there is. This week I have no onions, no eggs, and few vegetables. But I can still produce a good meal and fill your mouth with delicious. Just like many Italian mothers.

CSA box: zucchine and lettuce

It’s hardly even summer yet and I am already having a hard time coming up with recipes for eg’s CSA box!  I didn’t want to start on zucchine yet, because I know the day is coming when people will be desperate for what to do with zucchine.  But this is the third week she’s had summer squashes, so here we go.

Most of this was in the box
Most of this was in the box

The CSA box had lettuce, scallions and zucchine and other summer squashes.  I added 1/3 of a pork chop, sliced thin and marinated, garlic and the marinade ingredients.  I also added just under 2 ounces of rice stick noodles, cooked and drained.  This took about fifteen minutes to make.

Pork and vegetable stir fry

Marinade:  (or chowing sauce if you read a lot of Chinese cookbooks.)

  • 2 soup spoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 soup spoon of soy sauce
  • 2 soup spoons of sherry or Marsala
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • pinch of chile pepper flakes

Mix in a small bowl and toss the thinly sliced pork in it to get all the meat seasoned.  Leave while you prepare the rest of the stir fry.

Cook about 2 ounces of noodles in boiling salted water until just done, drain and hold.

Clean and cut:

  • 1 small zucchina or other summer squash
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 scallion
  • 4-5 leaves of lettuce

Heat a wok or very large frying pan with some vegetable oil.  Remove the meat from the marinade.  When it is very hot, toss in the meat and garlic and stir fry until the meat loses its red color.  Add the squash and continue to cook until they start to look translucent.  Add the onion/scallion slivers and toss briefly, then the lettuce which you should toss until it is coated with the moisture of the pan.  Add the noodles, then the marinade, tossing really well.  Remove to a serving bowl and optionally throw some minced peanuts on top, like I did because, after all, they are here since we cooked the Viet noodle dishes last week.  Serendipity, that.  So here is what you get sans peanuts.

and very good it was, I swear
and very good it was, I swear

Roast stinco of pork with roasted potatoes

It would be worth asking your meat department to order fresh pork hocks for you just so that you can say you are having stinco for dinner.  Even better is if you can ask someone over to eat stinco.  It’s a name that doesn’t translate so well, but it’s really, really good to eat!

Stinco di Maiale

This was a restaurant meal, but it’s super easy to make at home.  I only make it if several are eating though, to conserve fuel.  It takes as long to cook one as it does to cook six.  This was so much meat I only ate about 15% of it, and the rest went to the kitties.  They were some kind of happy!

Although you may see smoked ham hocks most often, you should be able to get them uncured, too.  And they should be relatively cheap.  All you do is rub them with a little oil, then salt and rosemary, then cook them in a slow oven for a couple of hours until very tender.  The temperature can vary, but should never be really hot because that will toughen the meat.  I would cook it somewhere between 225°F and 300°F (110°C to 150°C)

If you want the potatoes as well (Am I insane?  Of course you want the potatoes!)  Peel them and cut them in chunks, then oil them, salt and rosemary them with the meat and put them into the same baking dish as the pork.  The long, slow cooking will make them creamy inside with slightly crisp corners and a salty surface.

I ate this dish at l’Osteria in Città di Castello.  With wine and service it cost euro 12.  A good buy.

Make this on a cold and rainy day when you are very busy.  Once you put it into the oven, you can go off for at least two hours and nevert give them a thought.

Pasta Dr. Suess

This pasta dish reminds me of “Green Eggs and Ham” of which, like most American mothers, I can still quote great swaths of text.  I could see it coming, but I was unable to help myself going greener, greener, greener because I knew it would taste so good.

Green pasta and ham
Green pasta and ham

This to me is really pasta primavera. This is made of what there really is in spring if you don’t live in Eden. Everybody made bacon in December and January, peas are up in the South, and cream cheese never goes all the way out of style. It will take as long to cook as boiling the water and cooking the pasta takes. Unless you are using fresh peas in the shell, in which case your reward for the extra ten minutes is what will happen in your mouth. This is fast Slow Food: genuine, made from scratch and unaffected by additives and preservatives. Save this recipe for when your CSA boxes arrive with the early peas.

Pasta Dr. Suess

To serve 2 (adjust up or down with confidence)

4 ounces or 115 g of a compact pasta such as penne, casareccia, etc.

about 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces 60 g cubed pancetta or salty ham
1 small red chili pepper, skin broken (optional, but I think it added a lot)
1 cup or 250 ml peas, fresh or frozen
3 ounces or 85 g cream cheese or formaggio fresco in Italy
1 or 2 tablespoons basil pesto—your own from the freezer or bought. Don’t let it overwhelm!

Bring a lot of salted water to a boil. When it boils, throw in the pasta and give it a couple of stirs.
Heat a frying pan with the olive oil in it, then toss in the cubed pancetta or ham, the peas and the chili pepper and fry them. When the meat looks a bit cooked, add a ladle (about .5 cup or 125 ml) of the pasta water, turn down the heat and let it simmer. Just a minute before your pasta should be done, stir in the cheese, then the pesto. If it is thicker than natural heavy cream, add a bit more pasta water to loosen it up.

Peasy peasy
Peasy peasy

When the pasta is al dente, drain it and put it into the sauce pan, stirring and tossing for a minute. Taste it to check for seasoning. Mine needed absolutely nothing. Serve it smoking hot.
I think we will shoot this off to Presto Pasta Night, which will be published Friday on “Food Hunter”s Guide to Cuisine, because Ruth in Canada must really be ready for spring.  Just for kicks I added up what this cost per person to make.  For the ingredients I bought– the pesto was homemade and leftover– it was about 90 centesimi per serving, or US$1.15.  Beat that!


Pork and beans, my way

What you see is an experiment that worked. It really needs to be called Lemon Peppered Pork with Pappadums, and you don’t have to have the pappadums, but who doesn’t like them? Besides, they are made out of chick pea flour and that sounds like health food to me, right?

Pork and Beans My Way
Pork and Beans My Way

The most difficult part of the dish will be picking out the pork. It needs to be lean and fairly tender. If it helps I can say that the tenderer parts of pork are often paler in color. It doesn’t need to be as tender as a tenderloin—there’s a giveaway name if I ever saw one—but it does need to be as tender as, say, a pork chop. It cooks a very brief time and that means you are not tenderizing it at all. This pork was quite lean, but I still cut away any visible fat or connective tissue.

The finished pork dish is brightly acid and rich all at once. The last step before serving it is to balance the lemon with salt. I can’t tell you how much salt, because every lemon is different, but you’ll know when it tastes right, I believe. I used corn oil for fear that olive oil would add too much of its own flavor, but in retrospect I believe olive oil might add a nutty note I’d like, and that it certainly cannot overwhelm the flavors.

The pappadums I bought in either Rome or Florence and I have had them for years and years carefully packed in a plastic bag. I use only a few at a time and I think there were fifty in the package. They look like disks of thick paper when you buy them, but when you fry them they puff and twist into these big fantasy chips. The flavor is like nothing else I know. I wouldn’t say bean the moment I bite into it, but I wasn’t surprised the first time to discover that that’s where the buttery flavor came from.

So, let’s make pork and beans. This is easy to double, triple or whatever, but don’t crowd the pork when cooking it.

Lemon Peppered Pork

To serve 2

.5 pound or 250 g lean pork, cut into cubes the size of dice
1 cup or 130 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
about 1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic minced fine
juice of half a lemon

Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl with a fork. Dredge the pork in the mixture, tossing around with the fork until well-covered.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. If you use a larger pan you may need more oil. When it is hot, add the cubes of pork, and turning them to cook on all sides, fry them for about five minutes or until they are just cooked through. Turn the heat off and add the garlic and then the lemon juice, stirring everything about to distribute it. Taste and correct with additional salt and pepper.


Heat vegetable oil in a small frying pan until it is really hot. I test by breaking off a piece of pappadum and tossing it in. When it puffs up instantly it is ready. One at a time, slide the pappadums into the oil. If it twists a lot you may have to turn it over with tongs to get some parts cooked. Remove with tongs to drain on paper towels. Two per person seems right but I expect three or four is more like it. These have a way of disappearing when you aren’t looking, even if you live alone.