Recipe Review: Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragu

Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragu

Rigatoni with Spicy Calabrese-Style Pork Ragu

This recipe was on the cover of the Pasta February 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  A soffritto of carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste forms the base of this ragu with Italian sausage and ground pork.  The sauce is slowly simmered for four hours, making it a good Sunday afternoon project.  However, I thought the deliciousness was in the good, not great range.  It does not beat my previous favorite version of a spicy Italian sausage tomato sauce from Andrew Carmellini (Rigatoni Pugliese).  At what point does one stop trying new versions of the same basic recipe and stick to what they know is really good?

Cost: about $10

Servings: 6 – 8

Taste: three out of five stars (good)

Time: five hours (one hour active time)

Level of Difficulty: not difficult, but time-consuming

Nutrition: fresh vegetables and tomatoes, but lots of pork

Make again: no

Link to recipe here.

Link to Rigatoni Pugliese review here.

Recipe Review: Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken Meatballs and Sage Crostone

This easy, delicious soup from Andrew Carmellini’s American Flavor cookbook “marries” meat and vegetables and is often traditionally served at Italian-American weddings.  There is a lot of flavor here: spicy chicken meatballs, crunchy escarole, tiny star-shaped pasta all in a chicken broth chock full of vegetables and served with toasted sage-parmesan crostone.  The light soup contrasts with the meatballs that have a little bit of heat from crushed red pepper.  The entire recipe prep takes about an hour: sliced ciabatta bread with olive oil, parmesan and sage are toasted in the oven for the crostone, meatballs are rolled, vegetables are chopped and cooked in chicken broth for a few minutes, then the meatballs are poached for five minutes, and finally cooked pasta and escarole are added at the very end.  Another good dish from this cookbook – see also Black Eyed Pea and Kale Chili, Bacon-Chipotle Cornbread.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Black Eyed Pea and Kale Chili with Monterey Jack Cheese, Chipotle-Bacon Cornbread

I have been a fan of Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian cookbook, which has killer recipes for Potato Gnocchi and Rigatoni Pugliese.  He opened a new American restaurant this year called The Dutch, which was the New York Times’ Dining Critic Sam Sifton’s #1 restaurant of 2011.  So naturally I was excited when I heard he had a new cookbook entitled American Flavor.  American Flavor features some recipes from The Dutch, but it is also a collection of recipes from Chef Carmellini’s experiences growing up in Cleveland and traveling through the South to Miami with his father.  There is an insightful introductory chapter that recounts some of these stories and makes for a fun read and provides an understanding of the selection of recipes included in the book, which are quite eclectic and represent the melting pot that is American food.  For example, the soup chapter includes a recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup, a nod to the staple Campbell’s Soup of Midwestern home kitchens, but also soups like Coconut-Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Lemongrass and Cilantro Yogurt, and Tomato-Chile-Mango Gazpacho.  There are many recipes with Southern influence, like Hoppin’ John and Green Grits, but there’s also room for Korean Steak, Pierogies, and Spam Musubi.

I have tried two recipes so far, the Black Eyed Pea and Kale Chili and the Chipotle-Bacon Cornbread.  Both actually contain chipotle chiles and bacon, which makes for efficient shopping, but the two dishes complement each other nicely instead of having too similar flavor profiles.  The Chili has really fresh flavors with quickly cooked celery, onion, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and kale in chicken broth.  There is a depth of flavor with the smoky bacon, chipotles, plus mustard, honey, cumin, and coriander.  The cornbread has a perfect crumb with ribbons of cheddar, bacon, honey, and chipotle running through it.  Both are doable in a home kitchen.  The success of these two dishes make me  look forward to cooking more from this book.  Mexican Baked Apples with Ancho Caramel, Chicken Pot Pie, and Macaroni and Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf look amazing and are on my to-do list.

Link to chili recipe here.

Recipe Review: Rigatoni Pugliese (Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage, Chickpeas, and Broccoli Rabe)

This hearty dish is Italian comfort food perfect for cool fall and winter evenings, from Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian cookbook.  The rich, creamy sauce is made without the use of heavy cream or butter.  The secret is that prepared tomato sauce is thickened with pureed chickpeas that add both flavor and texture.  I have tried making Chef Carmellini’s basic tomato sauce in the past, but was not successful – I think that recipe calls for too much olive oil.  Instead, I used my go-to basic tomato sauce, from Todd English’s Figs cookbook, as the base for this sauce.  Cooking takes less than 30 minutes – brown some spicy Italian sausage, puree chickpeas in a blender, and simmer with tomato sauce for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil water, blanch the broccoli rabe for 90 seconds, then saute in olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and chickpeas.  Boil the rigatoni, toss with the sauce, and top with the broccoli rabe, chickpeas, and grated parmesan or pecorino.  The recipe calls for adding additional butter and olive oil when tossing the pasta with the sauce, but I think the sauce is definitely good enough to stand on its own.

Link to recipe here.

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