THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
Summer is finally here.
Yesterday i had my first ‘Beach Day’ of the season. I biked to Venice Beach, laid my towel over the warm sand and, as i could have easily predicted, slept for what it seemed 20 minutes but turned out to be a little bit over two hours. The sound of the ocean on the background. The seagulls claiming the lunch of a carless turist who lost it all in just a few seconds.
No, unfortunately i am not on vacation yet, but this is what it sounds and looks like. And probably this is why i am enjoying so much my time here in California where i have been collaborating and appointed In-House Executive Chef for the ‘House of Balsamic‘. Going back and forth between Phoenix and California however, it is not nearly as relaxing as it is sitting on the beach and contemplating a beautiful sunset.
But the warm weather and great climate contribute to the creation of many “Summer Feasts” with family, friends and sometimes guests, who enjoy cooking and being around the same table.
Last week, while back in PHX, Jan D’Atri called me and asked me if i wanted to be on her radio show. I couldn’t refuse, especially because i had a couple of new recipes i had been working on i knew Jan would have liked.
..and in fact it was a blast! Two hours filled with food talk, eating (yes, i was cooking ON AIR) and many sips of housemade Limoncello was that as potent as it looked.
Great tips on how to use oregano, to properly cook pasta and some very interesting stories on Balsamic Vinegar that is worth knowing. You can listen at the entire PODCAST here (7.16.11)
There was however, one of the two recipes that the listeners, as well as Jan and Susie Tim (who joined me ON AIR) particulary liked: ‘SPAGHETTI WITH OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES, SAUTEED SHRIMP AND GORGONZOLA SAUCE‘
Perfect for a summer light dinner, maybe ‘al fresco’, this recipe came to be after finding a few left overs in the fridge. I promise you will be surprised by the easiness of this dish. Sauteed shrimps go perfectly with the sweetness of oven roasted tomatoes and both ingredients come together under a light but extraordinarily tasty Gorgonzola sauce. Finish it with fresh parsley, basil and don’t forget a icy cold glass of ‘Pecorino’ wine to go with it.
‘SPAGHETTI ALLA BERTACCINI’
FOR OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES:
To start, pre-heat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit. While the oven is warming up, rinse, drain and dry the cherry tomatoes, as they will take 20 to 25 minutes to roast. Pour the 3 pints of cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, honey and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of sea salt and ground black pepper making sure that all the tomatoes are covered with the oil and salt, so use your hands if necessary to give them a good toss before placing the sheet in the oven. If you see the skin bursting sooner than 20 minutes, remove the cherry tomatoes from the oven, as you don’t want them over done and mushy. Save any liquid the tomatoes release during the cooking.
FOR THE GORGONZOLA SAUCE:
In medium saucepan add heavy cream until hot, reduce heat, and cook until reduced by one-third. Add parmesan and gorgonzola cheese. Stir until cheeses melt and sauce is creamy. If too thick add a scoop of boiling pasta water. If too runny, reduce at low heat for longer.
FOR THE PASTA:
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a very hot pan, making sure the bottom is completely covered with oil, moving the pan around to ensure the oil slides all round. Add the 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped the clean shrimps, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of sea salt, freshly ground pepper from the pepper mill and cook shrimp for 1 minute on either side. Add the white wine to the shrimps and wait for it to evaporate.
Turn the heat down to medium low and add the oven roasted tomatoes to the mixture. Add any liquid the tomatoes
released during the roasting. Stir occasionally and let the sauce cook for about 6-10 minutes until it starts reducing to a thicker consistency. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and set aside. Make sure to NOT overcook the shrimps or they will become chewy.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water until just under al dente. Save 2 cups of boiling water, set aside. Drain the rest of the past. Toss the pasta into the pan or skillet were the shrimps are immediately add the warm Gorgonzola sauce, the chopped parsley and chopped basil. Cook over high heat, tossing to combine and adding the pasta water to moisten, if desired, for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately.