Tag Archives: papardelle

Little Italy Mercato: Fresh Pappardelle with Sausage and a Salad

Farmer's Market Little Italy, San Diego
Mother’s Day weekend found us enjoying a relaxing two days filled with food this year.  Big surprise, right?  To be fair, it all began with a visit to Little Italy’s Mercato — more for a Saturday morning downtown than the possibility of what we might purchase.  And purchase we did.  The sole market bag we brought didn’t quite hold what we ended up with — most of it chosen for either dinner that night, or breakfast the next day.

We don’t often venture downtown, but when we do, we’re left questioning why we don’t go more frequently.  It’s fairly quiet on the weekends, and with more and more residents occupying the high-rise condominiums, the sidewalks are dotted with dog-walkers, those who have stopped to have a latte with the morning paper, and lots of farmer’s market shoppers holding bunches of flowers and bags overflowing with weekend cooking possibilities.

In much the same way we do when traveling, we pause in front of a real estate office and scan the photos of “For Sale” properties in the area, imagining ourselves living there instead of where we currently live.  It’s a pleasant pastime we’ve entertained ourselves with seemingly forever — especially in the years when we could barely afford to dream.  What is it about being able to walk just about everywhere one needs to go in a day’s time?  Could we actually get along with only one car?  Might we adjust to living without much of what we own, trading it in for a spectacular view and convenience?

Maybe — but it’s all a game of wondering that takes second fiddle to the marvelous array of fresh offerings we sampled and purchased that day.  The jacarandas were in bloom, the weather was perfect, so why not relax and enjoy the possibilities.

Pasta and a salad?  Or maybe stuffed French toast.

What about all three?

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Almost Cochignano’s Meatballs with Marinara & Papardelle

In less than 30 days, we’re leaving for Italy.  It hasn’t quite set in yet, even though I’ve been swamped with securing lodging, booking reservations for the busier sights, and familiarizing myself with three very different cities for our 12-day vacation.  I’ve found a cute apartment (with a kitchen I’m planning on using) in Rome a couple of blocks from the Piazza Campo de Fiori (which has an outdoor morning market) where we’ll be for four nights.  Then we’re off to Sorrento near the Amalfi Coast for three nights so the menfolk can wallow in all that’s Pompeii & Vesuvius and I can oogle over the vistas with some limoncello.  We’ll finish up in Florence, or right outside of Florence in an old, old  farmhouse.

Yours truly is our travel agent, and let me tell you, it’s a lot of work!


So how are we getting ready for all of this?  With food, of course.  Italian food.  And although I’m attempting to find recipes that are related to the cuisine we may find in each of the areas we’ll be visiting, as long as it’s Italian, we’re fine.  It will be truly interesting once we’re there to compare authentic Italian cuisine with what we’ve always thought it’s been and know we’re in for some surprises.

In celebration of that, I’m starting with a recipe I found recently for Spaghetti & Meatballs.  It seemed appropriate to begin with something so many are familiar with, and with a recipe that varies from one  family to the next, each with its own secret ingredients. 

My family is not Italian — at least not that I know of, but there are a few skeletons in our many closets!  The spaghetti we had for dinner when I was growing up was looked forward to even though it was made from ground beef, a can of tomato paste, a package of Shilling’s spaghetti mix, and some water.  We’d ask for spaghetti noodles, but most often ended up with penne or ziti, my mother not especially wanting to deal with the mess we’d have made slurping long, tomato sauced pieces of pasta. 

When I saw Angelo "Squatty" Coschignano’s Meatballs with Billy’s Sauce in the April issue of Gourmet,  I couldn’t pass up the recipe. And true to my sorry form, I hadn’t planned it in advance, but was able to pull it off with what I had on hand.  Okay, so not exactly the recipe, but good enough for me to imagine what the real deal must taste like.

To die for.

Angelo Coschignano & Billy — whoever you are, thanks.  Thanks very much!


Papardelle & Meatballs

For the Sauce
2 1/2 c. water
1-1/2 tsp. good chicken bouillon
1/2 oz. dried porcinis
1/2 lb. piece top round (whole)
chicken parts (neck, gizzard, liver, heart)
1/3 c. olive oil
5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  2 lg. onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 c.
coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4 c. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
garlic cloves, smashed
(28-oz) cans diced tomatoes in juice
14 oz. marinara sauce (jar)
c. dry red wine
2 T sugar
1/4  c.  grated Parmesan

Hydrate the porcinis with 1 c. of very hot water and let sit for about 20 minutes.  (You may need to filter the water to remove sediment before using it.) Heat the remaining 1-1/2 c. water and add the bouillon, stirring until dissolved.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pot, and when hot, saute chicken parts and piece of sirloin until beginning to brown.  Add bacon and continue to fry until soft, 3-5 minutes.  Add the onions and saute about 7-8 minutes, until soft and golden.

Add the basil, parsley, and garlic, stirring it in, about 3 minutes.

Stir in all the tomatoes and sauce, then add the wine, sugar, mushrooms, and their water, as well as the chicken bouillon and mix well, cooking until it reaches a simmer.  Add the parmesan all at once and stir it in.

Let sauce simmer over a very low flame for about 2 hours until very thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


For the Balls
1 lg. garlic clove, chopped
3/4 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. Sweet Italian sausage
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 c. grated fresh Parmesan
1/3 c. Italian seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
1 lg. egg
1/2 c. olive oil

1 lb. papardelle

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

About half way through the sauce simmer time:

Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl.  Use your hands to squeeze everything through your fingers making sure all is incorporated.  Dampen your hands, and make about 18-20 nicely rounded balls.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil until very hot and brown the balls in small batches until browned on all sides. 

Place the browned balls in a large baking dish and cover them with 1 qt. of the tomato sauce.  Cover the dish with foil and bake about 30 minutes until the balls are cooked through.

Pour over cooked papardelle and sprinkle on some parmesan.


Notes: Okay, so I have no idea where to get veal neck bones, which is what the original recipe called for.  I don’t exactly keep those things in my freezer. Not only do they make me feel a bit squiggy around the edges, but there’s just no way I’d end up with them left over from something else.   I do, however usually have other less squiggy odds and ends in my freezer for any number of reasons, and decided that a chunk of top round and some chicken parts I would work just fine. 

And the mushrooms?  Well, the original recipe called for porcini bouillon, and I spent about two seconds marveling over the idea that such a thing existed before I remembered that I had a packet of dried porcinis in my cupboard.  You know what they say about a well-stocked pantry, right?  Well.  Actually, I purchased these in Virginia while visiting my sister last Christmas and wasn’t about to leave them there.  There’s no way she’d use them ever, and how sad is that?  So I packed them up and brought them home and see how handy they were? 

Other substitutions?  Oh yes. The top round.  Instead of chopping it, I decided it was all about the flavor, so cooked it and the chicken parts in the sauce and then removed them.  All that nice caramelly brown stuff on the bottom of the pan was able to flavor the sauce just fine.  As much as I can say that the beef was very nicely cooked and shredded easily after simmering in that lovely tomato sauce(the menfolk picked at it until it was gone), there was no way I was going to leave it in the sauce since the sauce was destined for meatballs.  Who ever heard of pouring a meat sauce over meatballs?  Okay, I’m sure someone out there has, so the line forms at the left and you can set me straight.


What else?  Well.  The original called for day old Italian bread soaked in 1-1/2 cups of milk, squeezed, then the milk tossed.  Not only did I not have Italian bread, I couldn’t bring myself to even use a stale loaf of sliced bread and then throw out all that milk.  Sorry.  No criticism on the original recipe, because I have soaked dried bread before, but the liquid went in the sauce.

I know there’s something else…OH!  The tomato paste.  I actually didn’t have any.  So much for my well-stocked pantry, right?  But I did have half a jar of very good marinara, and so used that instead figuring that the intensity of the flavor would be a somewhat decent substitute. 

So the outcome?  The sauce was very good.  It was thick, and a pleasant combination of tomato tartness, mellowed to a rich, bacony lusciousness.  The balls?  The jury said they weren’t juicy enough, but the outspoken part of that jury was my mother, and she thinks everything needs a ton of fat in it.  I am wondering what the bread would have added to these, thinking it may have lightened them up a bit.


The sauce recipe makes about 2 quarts, so you’ll have lots of leftovers to experiment with.

Like one of the grilled pizzas we had a few days later.  Mmmmmm…..

Home Roasted Peppers & Baby Artichokes with Pappardelle

I made the mistake of running down to the store for some drops for my son's ear yesterday and ended up with an explosion of fresh veggies, dough, and cheese by the time I was done shopping.  I can't control myself when I see nice little packages of colorful tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and baby artichokes.  Img_1309
The problem is when I get home, everything is scattered around the counters, and I can't decide what to make.  Yes, you can't just buy it — you have to make it, dorkette!  So I begin to wonder, "Is this to be crammed into one dinner that ends up being an explosion on the plate, or do I narrow things down into a low and controllable roar?  Do I rely upon a recipe that I will most likely NOT remember where it's stashed, or sort of go at it on my own." 

Even the sequence of the whole endeavor last night was a comedy of errors — when to start what — which ingredients for which dinner — tonight or tomorrow?  Jeez.  It would help if I actually focused on one thing.  Right.  But there are a few things to be learned if you have the patience to follow along with me at this point.

The colorful peppers started the whole thing.  I love roasted peppers — and although I usually have a jar in the cupboard or fridge, I like to make them myself as well.  I enjoy the smoky taste, and even the pungent smell that is the result of the roasting process.  I roast them on my stove right on the burner with a high flame.  For gawdsake, don't clean your stove before you do this.  It isn't seriously messy, but it is a bit wet.  I turn the vent on high and let 'em rip.  Yes, the broiler works, but it gets smoky, and you have to open and close, open and close, and I prefer not to do that.  Absolutely, the BBQ grille works extremely well, but I'm not one to go out in the hours before dinner just to fire up the Barbie.  I'm not sure I know how, or choose not to remember.  Some things have to be saved for the Master of the House (MoH) anyway, right?  Years ago when I had an electric stove top, I used to lay the peppers right on the coils.  It works fine that way, too.  No fires, or problems, so if you're thinking, Huh?  I know, but years of trial and error have this down to a fairly speedy process.  And they taste better than the bottled ones every time.

Okay, back to the "What to Make for Dinner" dilemma.  Roasted peppers and what?  I know Martha is a dirty word at this point for some of my new buddies out in the cooking bloggoshere, but one of the pasta recipes I've enjoyed over the years comes from her.  I no longer have the recipe, but have sort of adapted my own (surprise…) and I'm thinking this is what I had stuck in my head when I then saw the baby artichokes as well.  The Martha Pasta Recipe calls for artichoke hearts and sauteed peppers.  So, instead of relying on my memory of the old recipe, I decided to stake out a new claim.  Here goes…

Oh, and I served this with a mache salad with portobellos sauteed in white truffle oil, sliced shallots, and shaved parmesan.  But I'll save that one for another time.  Yum. 

Roasted Peppers & Baby Artichokes with Pappardelle

Roasting the Peppers

  1. On an open flame place whole peppers.  Turn on exhaust fan if doing this indoors, as the fragrance of the peppers can linger in your house for a while.  Img_1313
  2. Keep an eye on the peppers, turning with a long pair of tongs when a "side" becomes completely blackened.  Consider that there are 4 "sides" plus a top and a bottom to a pepper for this chore.
  3. Adjust flame to your liking — but I use high because it gets the job done faster.  All in all, the process still takes about 15 minutes to finish.
  4. Once the peppers are completely black (95% — you will still see color here and there which is okay) remove them and place in a brown paper sealed grocery bag to sweat for at least 15 minutes.
  5. After sweating, peel off blackened skin.  You will be thankful that you kept the peppers on the flame longer, because unblackened skin is a challenge to remove. Img_1316
  6. After skin is removed, with a paring knife, remove the stem and slice down a side to open the pepper and remove seeds and membranes.  Sorry.  This is very messy.
  7. DO NOT rinse the peppers.  You will be removing all the wonderful oil and juice the roasting process helped to create.  Suck it up and rinse your hands after wards. 
  8. Slice peppers (or not) depending on what you want to use them for later.

Preparing the Baby Artichokes

  1. Prepare a large bowl of cool water with half a lemon squeezed into it.  You will be putting the trimmed artichokes into this bath.  This helps keep the artichokes from getting brown a bit.
  2. Cut stems off each artichoke and pick off all but the very light green/yellow leaves.  It will be a lot, but keep going, because if you don't, the end product will be tough and chewy — maybe even inedible.Img_1317
  3. Trim bottom of the artichoke where leaves have been removed to pretty them up.
  4. Trim off top 1/4-1/3 of each artichoke.
  5. As each artichoke is trimmed, rub the top on the remaining lemon half.
  6. Cut each trimmed artichoke into quarters.
  7. Check to see if a choke needs to be removed.  Usually, they're purple and fuzzy.
  8. If a choke needs to be removed, carefully slip the paring knife into the choke and scoop it out.  Pick out any remaining fuzzies with your fingers.
  9. Drop the artichoke quarters into the lemon water as each is trimmed. Img_1318
  10. Discard trimmed leaves and stems.


4 roasted peppers (red, yellow, orange, green) seeded, membranes removed, sliced into strips
2 lbs. fresh trimmed and quartered baby artichokes
3 large cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 c. olive oil
1 T. capers, well rinsed
1 lb. pappardelle cooked al dente
juice of 1/2 lemon
shaved or grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onions, stirring occasionally until translucent, but not browned — about 7 minutes.
  2. Add prepared artichokes and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring as needed, until tender and with a bit of golden brown color.
  3. Add roasted peppers and capers, stirring to incorporate, and cook 5 minutes longer.
  4. Add well-drained pasta to the artichoke mixture and stir.
  5. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the mixture.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, and shave parmesan over to serve.

Notes  Img_1326

The original Martha recipe called for sauteed peppers and bottled or canned (non-marinated) artichoke hearts.  It is very good and very quick to make.  This recipe, for all the labor with the roasting and preparing of artichokes, isn't better.  In fact, I used the directions to cook the artichokes that came on the package label.  Although I had reservations about their stated 7-8 minute cooking time, and did extend that, the artichokes were still not completely done and as tender as I would have liked.  But I'm a sucker for those cute little things and can't pass them up in the store, so what to do?  Par boil them first, let them rest in an ice bath, and then cook them.  Oh — and I almost always cut the amount of oil called for in recipes like this in half.  So I only used 1/4 c. of oil. 

There are left overs in the fridge, and I'll be sampling them for lunch today, just to see how the flavor goes.  Some dried red pepper flakes, and more parmesan are definitely being added.