Sunday Gravy – a very meaty sauce from Napoli

The guy on the left is not me. It is Andy Rafferty, who was the chef at our restaurant for several years.

They call this sauce “Sunday Gravy” or Sugo di Domenica. The story is that in Naples, where this sauce originates, Nonna uses the week’s leftover meats to make this sauce (sugo) which she typically cooks all day. Others say its roots lay with the Italian-American immigrants, pointing out that the impoverished southern Italians had little meat to cook with. It is a traditional dish in Napoli today, probably brought back by those who came home to visit. All I know is it’s amazing!

Meat, meat, meat!

This recipe is very flexible as far as the types of meats used. Just use a lot! Some people even add chicken livers. If you use any tougher cuts of meat, it is important to cook the sauce long enough to tenderize them.

Ingredients:

8-10 servings
1/2 cup olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (in casing) –sweet or hot
1 pound pork country ribs or boneless spareribs
1 pound beef stew meat (or lamb)
1 batch of meatballs–optional (homemade or store bought)
1 large onion—chopped
3-5 cloves fresh garlic—minced
1/3 cup red wine
2 – 28 oz. cans Whole Peeled Tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 2 tablespoon fresh) or Italian herb blend
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley—chopped and divided
1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
1 teaspoon sugar (or more to your taste)
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of pasta (I like rigatone, spaghetti or tagliatelle)
grated cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

Procedure:

  1. Put on some Italian music and pour a glass of wine.
  2. Mise en Place—Cut up meats in bite size pieces. Prepare onions and garlic. Measure out salt, sugar, wine and herbs. Open tomatoes.
  3. In a large heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Brown all meat (except meatballs) in three or more batches (adding additional oil as needed). Do not crowd the pan. Brown meat on all sides. Each batch should take 5-6 minutes. As each batch is browned, remove to a platter with paper towels.
  4. Add more olive oil to the pan drippings. Add onion. Stir and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for one additional minute.
  5. Add wine to deglaze. Scrape and stir for 1-2 minutes until wine partially evaporates.
  6. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand. Add tomato paste, oregano, half of the parsley, salt, and sugar. Return all meat to pot. Reduce heat to a slow simmer. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and stir in.
  7. Cover and allow sauce to cook for a minimum of one hour, or up to five hours.
  8. Heat water for pasta; 4 quarts water with 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  9. Cook 1-1/2 pounds of your favorite pasta until al dente.
  10. Drain pasta. Do not rinse. Toss with sauce and serve with freshly grated cheese. I recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano or a good quality Pecorino Romano. Garnish with remaining parsley.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It’s worth it. Buon appetito!

A fabulous Tuscan Breakfast or Brunch: Poached Eggs atop Ciabatta with Tuscan Salsa

This fabulous dish is quick, easy, soooo delicious, and perfect for breakfast or a stylish brunch. It is featured in my third Antonio Cortese Mystery novel, Death in Abundance, where it is prepared by Antonio’s Zia (aunt) Chiara on a lovely morning near Montepulciano. You can either take a loaf of ciabatta bread and cut it into servable size pieces or buy sandwich size ciabatta rolls which is what I did.

The Tuscan salsa is simple. It contains cooked pancetta (or you can sub bacon or prosciutto), tomatoes, shallots, parsley, a splash of good extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. You first want to cook, drain, and cool the pancetta before mixing it all together.

The salsa is beautiful and flavorful. Make extra if you want and serve it atop eggs, fish or meats.

To toast the ciabatta, I first brushed them with olive oil (or feel free to use butter) and toasted them under the broiler.

I suggest before poaching the eggs that you crack them into a small bowl. It does three things: you can check for shells, make sure the yolk remains whole, and it allows you to slide them gently into the simmering water.

The next step is to poach the eggs. I do not consider myself an expert on this. If you find it intimidating, there are plenty of tips to be found online if you look. A couple of tips are as follows: add a splash of vinegar to the water (such as white wine vinegar, or apple cider). This will help the egg whites to hold their shape. Then, once you get the water boiling, lower your heat to a simmer. Cook for three to five minutes depending on how runny you want your yolks.

All right, you’re almost ready to eat. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, allowing the excess water to drain off. If you want, you can pat the eggs gently with a cloth or paper towel to get them drier. I didn’t bother.

Place the eggs atop the ciabatta rolls and top with the Tuscan salsa. If you desire, you can top it off with some Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano. I would do it with a vegetable peeler for the most beautiful presentation. I forgot to do this before taking my photos. As you can see, it’s quite beautiful without it!

Recipe:

  • Ingredients:
  • Italian Salsa (enough for 4 servings):
  • 2 ounces pancetta–chopped
  • two Roma tomatoes-diced small
  • one small shallot–finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley–chopped
  • a splash of Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Other Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs per person
  • two halves of a ciabatta roll per person– sliced and served open-faced
  • olive oil or melted butter (to brush on ciabatta)
  • Pecorino Romano–shaved with a vegetable peeler (optional)

Frankie’s Tips:

You can buy pancetta by the slice at most deli counters, or you can buy it already diced at Trader Joe’s. Feel free to substitute bacon or prosciutto.

I realized after my photographs that I forgot to add the Pecorino Romano which is optional. If you add it, I recommend shaving it with a vegetable peeler makes a gorgeous presentation.

  • Procedure:
  • Chop your pancetta (or bacon or proscitto–see Frankie’s Tips below) and brown in a skillet. Drain on a paper towel and set aside to cool.
  • Prepare Italian Salsa. Set aside.
  • Pre-heat broiler. Brush cut side of ciabatta bread with olive oil or melted butter.
  • Choose a skillet with a lid for poaching. Your best bet is to go with a 10 to 12-inch nonstick skillet. Fill the skillet with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil.
  • While water is heating, toast your ciabatta under the broiler. Set aside.
  • Add a little bit of vinegar to the water to help the whites set quickly. Apple cider, or white wine vinegar are good choices because they won’t color the eggs.
  • Crack the eggs into a ramekin or small glass bowl. You only want to use it if the yolk is not broken.
  • Reduce water to a simmer and slide the eggs gently into the water. Cook about 3 minutes for a runny yolk, or up to 5 minutes for a firm yolk.
  • Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Gently dry tops with a paper or cloth towel. Place atop toasted ciabatta. Garnish with Italian Salsa, and shaved Pecorino cheese if you so desire.

Now it’s time to be thankful and enjoy this flavorful work of art! Buon appetito!

    Announcing the re-release of my cookbook “Frankie at Home in the Kitchen”

    Five years ago, I sold the last copy of my cookbook, two days before the closing of our restaurant. Now, thanks to Amazon’s print-on-demand option the book is back in all its glory!

    AUTOGRAPHED DELUXE SOFTCOVER BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR DIRECT SHIPMENT FROM MY WEBSITE.

    DELUXE SOFTCOVER AND E-BOOKS ALSO AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

    Beautifully photographed and complemented with wine-pairing recommendations, this cooking compendium offers more than 120 recipes for Italian dishes inspired by the famous Washington State restaurant, Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta. Numerous delectable ideas for pizza, pasta, and antipasti are presented as well as tasty tips on soups, salads, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts. Memorable images of the famed restaurant itself are also featured along with a photographic jaunt through the author’s vegetable garden and travels to Italy. Ensuring each recipe is well tested and easy to follow, this collection is a wonderful guide for those who want to lure friends and family to the table with handcrafted Italian entrées.

    Check out some photos below of the amazing dishes you’ll find in the book.

    Buon appetito!

    A Trio of delicious Winter Pizza Ideas

    Looking for inspiration for your pizza toppings? If you’re like me, you prefer to keep things seasonal, and in the winter the options are fewer unless you are using toppings grown south of the border or in a greenhouse. These three pizzas use ingredients readily available this time of year … olives, onions, cured meats, Italian sausage, and spicy jarred peppers.

    From scratch or not from scratch?

    You can make these pizzas completely from scratch if you like, or you can take some shortcuts such as buying pizza or bread dough (sold at most stores or your favorite pizzeria). You can also buy pizza sauce if you’d like. Me, I really prefer mine from scratch.

    In the past I have done several posts about pizza, including how to make your own dough, baking techniques, making your own sauce, and various styles of pizza. Check out the Recipe Index below for the full gamut, or if you just want the sauce or dough recipe, click on those page links.

    Quality Ingredients:

    If you go to the Pizza Recipe Index, in addition to the sauce and dough recipes, you’ll also find my recommendations for the highest quality cheese and tomatoes. I tested a wide variety of both. Trust me, it will make a difference!

    Keto Options?

    If you’ve been on Keto for any length of time, you know there are plenty of recipes out there for Keto Pizza Crusts, made from cauliflower, and/or cheese, or almond and/or coconut flour. I’ve yet to test any of these and would only post a recipe if I had tested more than one recipe. Most major stores carry Keto Pizzas in the frozen section. We had the one from Costco. It was edible but the quality of the toppings was typical of frozen pizzas. Homemade is far superior!

    So far there are only a few pizza crusts available. I saw some really small ones at Trader Joe’s, but they weren’t cheap, and supposedly Fred Meyer has one made by Boboli. I’ve not tried them but am skeptical.

    I would love to hear if anyone has had experience with making or buying Keto Pizza Dough! You can write your comments below.

    The Topping Recipes:

    Now let’s get to the recipes for these pizzas. I’m not going to list quantities. Just put on as much or as little as you like. The toppings are listed in the order in which you would add them. In other words, the bottom item listed would end up on top.

    THREE OLIVE & SALAMI PIZZA:

    • Pizza Sauce
    • Mozzarella cheese
    • Salami (of your choice*)
    • Onions – slivered
    • Three or more types of olives of your choice (such as kalamata, green, black, or gaeta)

    * I’m sure you know there are many types of salami. Beyond Genoa, some of my favorites are Sopressata, Bresaola, Capocollo, and Wine Salami.

    Prosciutto & Caramelized Rosemary Onion Pizza:

    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • Mozzarella cheese
    • Caramelized rosemary onions (see note below)
    • Prosciutto (thinly sliced)

    For this pizza you’ll need to slice and caramelize your onions with rosemary prior to adding them to your pizza. I prefer to use fresh rosemary. To prepare, slice your onions and mince the fresh rosemary if using fresh. Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onions. Salt them. Once the onions begin to sweat, add the rosemary, and cook until the onions are a beautiful golden brown.

    This pizza has no tomato sauce. First drizzle the dough with extra virgin olive oil before adding the other toppings.

    Pizza Calabrese:

    • Pizza Sauce
    • Mozzarella cheese (half quantity)
    • Provolone cheese (half quantity)
    • Italian Sausage – preferably hot
    • Red cherry peppers or other spicy red peppers (see notes below).

    As far as the cheese goes, blend them to your liking. You can use all mozzarella, or all provolone, or mix the two. A high-quality provolone is exceptional on pizza!

    Regarding the peppers, Mama Lil’s is an exceptional local brand.

    Calabria is in the south of Italy where they like their food spicy. This pizza recipe is supposed to reflect that. If you want to tone it down a bit, use a Sweet (or Mild) Italian Sausage, and go light on the peppers. If you want it really spicy, well you know the options! One spice option I like is a spicy chile oil. I always keep a small jar handy. All you do is take some crushed red peppers in a small bottle, add a good olive oil and let it marinate together.

    Homemade Italian Sausage anyone?

    If you really want to make everything from scratch, you can even make your own Italian sausage. The recipe is here on my blog. You can either make it into links or just leave it bulk which is easier. The flavor is amazing, and you can adjust the heat to your liking.

    Italian Sausage Recipe

    Hunter’s Wife’s Chicken (AKA Chicken Cacciatore)

    According to folklore this central Italian dish dates to the Renaissance. Cacciatore translates hunter. It is thought that the first cacciatore was not made with chicken at all, but with rabbit (as it often still is), or other wild game. I’ve heard it said that if the hunter returned without something more substantial that the wife would make it out of chicken. Who knows the real story? But we do know it is delicious!


    This dish can be found in my first novel, Deception in Siena, where it is prepared by Antonio Cortese’s (our protagonist) sister and aunt.

    Many recipes use peppers. However, I consider it more of an Autumn dish, a time when peppers would not have been available. Thus, I’ve made my recipe with carrots, onions, mushrooms, and olives.
    My favorite way to serve this is over polenta. You can also serve it over pasta or mashed potatoes. My wife
    and I are currently on the Keto diet, so I served it with faux mashed potatoes made with cauliflower which made it a Keto friendly recipe!

    I strongly suggest that you assemble and pre-prep all of your ingredients before you begin to cook, a step the French call mis en place (everything in its place). It will help you not to burn anything or leave anything out.

    Use whatever cuts of chicken you want or this. I used thighs and a chicken breast. The breast was huge, so I deboned it and cut it into a few smaller pieces.

    The next step after slicing and dicing is to heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, flat-bottom skillet over medium-high heat until oil begins to shimmer. Place chicken in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown—3 to 4 minutes per side depending on thickness of chicken–until firm to the touch when pressed (this indicates doneness). Transfer to a plate or tray atop paper towels.

    Next, reduce heat to medium and add mushrooms, onion, and carrots. Sauté, stirring occasionally until onions and carrots are softened. Add garlic and herbs and sauté an additional one to two minutes.

    Add the white wine and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the pan bottom (this step is known as deglazing). Simmer until wine is reduced by about half.

    Add canned tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you do. Add olives, tomato paste, and the remaining olive oil.

    Add about a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Stir together well. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning to your liking (I almost always add more, but I love salt!).
    Add chicken to sauce, along with any juices on the plate. Turn to coat lightly. Cook together for 4 to 5 minutes.

    Thank God for his goodness as shown in this wonderful meal you are about to partake of!

    4 servings

    • 2 pounds of chicken cuts of your choice (see Frankie’s Tips)
    • salt & pepper
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 6 ounces mushrooms—sliced thick
    • 1 medium onion—diced
    • 2-3 carrots—diced
    • 3-5 cloves garlic—minced
    • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary—chopped
    • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley—chopped (plus extra for garnish)
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 4 to 5 oz. olives of your choice
    • 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

    Procedure:

    1. Pre-prep all ingredients (a step the French call mis en place). Salt and pepper chicken on both sides.
    2. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, flat-bottom skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Place chicken in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown—3 to 4 minutes per side depending on thickness of chicken–until firm to the touch when pressed (this indicates doneness). Transfer to a plate atop paper towels.
    3. Reduce heat to medium and add mushrooms, onion, and carrots. Sauté, stirring occasionally until onions and carrots are softened. Add garlic and herbs and sauté an additional one to two minutes.
    4. Add the white wine and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the pan bottom (this step is known as deglazing). Simmer until wine is reduced by about half.
    5. Add canned tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you do. Add olives, tomato paste, and the remaining olive oil.
    6. Add about a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Stir together well. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning to your liking (I almost always add more, but I love salt!).
    7. Add chicken to sauce, along with any juices on the plate. Turn to coat lightly. Cook together for 4 to 5 minutes.
    8. Thank God for his goodness as shown in this wonderful meal you are about to partake of.

    Buon appetito! I hope you enjoy this recipe! Frankie

    Announcing the release of my third novel – Death in Abundance

    Set in the beautiful Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano

    Many of you know that I am a novelist as well as a food blogger. I’m excited to announce the release of my third novel, Death in Abundance, in my series, The Antonio Cortese Mysteries.

    Antonio is a former detective turned Italian pizzeria owner. All three titles are set primarily in Tuscany, where his mother was raised and where he spent several weeks every summer while growing up, learning Italian cooking from his Nonna, mother, and aunts.

    The books are rich in Italian cooking scenes, and provide a lavish portrait of the people, culture, and place of Italy, all interlaced with riveting mysteries which need to be solved.

    In Death in Abundance, Antonio is about to board a plane home to Seattle when he receives a call from his fiancée, Gabriella, a colonel in the Italian Carabinieri. She found out that an accident which took the life of her brother—an investigator with the Italian Wine Commission, and his wife—was no accident at all. The case belongs to the Polizia di Stato, but when Covid-19 hinders them, Gabriella goes rogue with the investigation. Antonio refuses to let her go it alone and becomes embroiled in danger alongside her. As more suspicious deaths pile up, and the pandemic threatens to shut down Italy, every moment is critical.

    All titles are available as hardcovers, paperbacks, and eBooks. Autographed copies are available on my website at www.frankcurtiss.com (click button below).

    All books are also available on Amazon.com. eBooks are available at no charge to Kindle Unlimited members.

    In the first novel, Deception in Siena, Antonio returns to Tuscany for the first time in five years after a tragic event sent his life into a tailspin. He returns looking for healing among the people and place he loves. There he is drawn into a treacherous web of intrigue when he and his young cousin, Giulia, are run off the road while cycling, putting Giulia in a coma fighting for her life.

    In the second novel Antonio is dealing with PTSD and still trying to get his feet under him when his world seems to crumble once again.  

    Gabriella, the beautiful Carabinieri detective from Tuscany, has breathed new life into him. When a suspicious accident takes the life of her brother and his wife. Antonio wants to be with her. As he makes plans to do so, he gets a desperate call from his Uncle Nicolo, lead detective in Siena. Antonio’s cousin, Raphael, a policeman in Firenze, has disappeared.

    When Antonio returns to Tuscany, the search for Raphael embroils he and Nicolo in a dangerous web of child prostitution, human trafficking, and the Nigerian mob—all as the Covid19 epidemic begins its deadly spread throughout Italy and Antonio’s home state of Washington. The clock is ticking and there is far more at stake than meets the eye.

    If you’re a mystery fan and yet to read any of the books in this series, I invite you to order a set of all three books, available in hardcover or paperback. Available only on my website at www.frankcurtiss.com

    Ciao e grazie mille! Enjoy your adventures in Tuscany!

    Eggplant Parmesan with Sausage – another Keto friendly recipe

    My wife, Rhonda, and I have been on a Keto diet for a couple of months now. The things we miss most are pizza and pasta. As many of you know, we owned an Italian restaurant, Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta, for 24 years … born out of our love for those amazing foods. So now I am on a mission to satiate my Italian cravings while on Keto. This recipe was another success on that journey.

    The Keto diet allows for a lot of fat. Thus, the addition of the sausage and I did not skimp on the cheese.

    Mis en Place: I always start with mis en place, the French term for “everything in place”. Doing this before you start cooking helps to ensure that you do not burn something while chopping something else or leave out any ingredients. After I assembled everything, I went on to chop my onions, garlic, and herbs before proceeding.

    Sweating the eggplant: I started the process by slicing the eggplant about 3/8 inch thick. I then laid the slices on paper towels on a baking sheet.

    I salted the eggplant, then covered this with a second layer of paper towels. On top of that I placed a second baking sheet and weighed it down with a can of tomatoes. The idea is to sweat some of the moisture from the eggplant which removes some of its bitterness. This is completely optional. In my experience, the difference is not significant.

    A Possible Shortcut: If you don’t want to make your own sauce, feel free to substitute a jar of your favorite Marinara. If you use this method, I would still sauté onions and sausage as described below and add those to the sauce.

    Making the sauce: While my eggplant was sweating, I began my sauce, which was simply my marinara (what many Italians would call Sugo Pomodoro), with the addition of Italian Sausage. One of the keys to good marinara is high quality tomatoes. I used Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes. The best price I found for these is at Trader Joe’s. I like the Cento Italian Plum tomatoes (that are not designated as San Marzano) just as well. I used whole plum tomatoes which I crushed myself. An alternative is to use Crushed Tomatoes if you prefer a smoother sauce. When I make a double batch, I usually use one can of each.

    I began by sweating the onions, then adding my garlic, then the sausage. Once the pink was gone, I added my herbs. I used dried oregano and Italian parsley–both grown in my garden. Fresh basil would be perfect, but my basil is dying now that autumn has arrived. Another option is to use dried basil or marjoram.

    Next, I added a little white wine to deglaze (completely optional), and some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. If you find the sauce to be more bitter than you like, feel free to add a little sugar. Once the flavor was to my liking, I turned the flame to the lowest setting and allowed the sauce to simmer.

    Cooking the Eggplant: There are a variety of ways you can cook the eggplant. It was a beautiful day, and I was cooking in my outdoor kitchen, so I decided to grill them on my gas grill. First, I brushed them with olive oil.

    Other options include baking them in the oven. To do so, remove the paper towels and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or silicone baking mat). Bake at 425 F. for 15-20 minutes or until tender. You can also bread them and fry them. I personally don’t like this method as they really soak up the oil!

    An option with the eggplant: Some people (my wife included I found out afterword), don’t care for the skin on the eggplant which can be tough. Feel free to remove the skin with a sharp peeler or paring knife. Or I have at times removed part of it (in stripes), which can be a happy medium).

    Assembling the Dish: The assembly is simple. Select an appropriate baking dish. I have this cool cast iron one I used. It wasn’t quite big enough, so I also did a separate one in a smaller rarebit. This worked out great because my wife wanted less cheese on hers : )

    Place a layer of sauce in the bottom. Top that with eggplant. If needed, you can slice it to fit. Top with more sauce, then a layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan. Repeat with eggplant, sauce, and additional cheese. I chose to top mine with some Italian parsley. You can add that before or after baking.

    Baking: All that was left now was to bake the casserole. I prepared mine earlier in the afternoon, then placed it in the refrigerator to bake later. If you do so, I suggest pulling it out at least a half-hour before baking to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil and bake further until nicely browned (another 10-12 minutes). Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

    Serves 4 as a main course / 6 as a first course:

    For Eggplant:
    1 large globe eggplant–sliced approximately 3/8 inch thick
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/ cup olive oil
    For Sauce:
    1/2 medium onion
    3-5 cloves garlic-minced
    1/2-pound Italian sausage
    1/4 cup white wine
    28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
    1 tbls. tomato paste
    fresh or dried herbs (see Frankie’s Tips)
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    To Finish:
    1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (or fresh mozzarella—diced small)
    3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano (lightly packed)

    Procedure:

    • Read Frankie’s Tips regarding sweating eggplant (optional), and methods of cooking. If roasting eggplant in the oven, preheat to 425 F. Brush baking sheet with olive oil. Place the eggplant slices on the trays in a single layer. Lightly brush the top side of the eggplant slices with remaining oil. If you did not sweat the eggplant, sprinkle with salt now.
    • Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes until tender and lightly browned. When eggplants are done cooking, remove and reduce oven to 400 F. Allow eggplant to rest until cool enough to handle.
    • While eggplants are baking and cooling, prepare the sauce. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and heat over medium until oil begins to shimmer. Sauté onions until they begin to soften. Add garlic and sausage. Chop sausage as it cooks and sauté until all pink is gone.
    • Add wine and deglaze skillet (scrape brown bits from bottom of pan). Cook until wine is reduced by half.
    • Crush canned tomatoes by hand and add to the skillet along with their juices. Add paste.
    • Add the remaining olive oil. Add herbs (see Frankie’s Tips), and salt and pepper to taste.
    • You’re now ready to assemble. Place a layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of the baking dish (9×9 would be a good size). Place a single layer of eggplant on top of the sauce.
    • Top with half of your cheese.
    • For the second layer, do a layer of sauce, then eggplant, a little more sauce, then top with cheeses.
    • Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-12 minutes until cheese is bubbly and nicely browned.
    • Allow to rest ten minutes before slicing.
    • Put on some nice Italian music, pour a glass of your favorite dinner beverage (I like with a nice Italian red wine), and give thanks to God for his bountiful gifts! Buon appetite!

    Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage & Apples in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce – a perfect flavor pairing for Autumn

    Apples from our local farmer’s market

    Yes, Autumn is here and it’s time to celebrate the ingredients that are at their peak of perfection. Apples are available year-round of course, but the flavor and crisp texture are unrivaled this time of year. You’ll find the best selection and highest quality if you get them at your local farmer’s market (unless you grow them yourself!).

    I first got the idea from the amazing flavor combination of gorgonzola cheese with apples. The addition of the sausage turned out to be brilliant in my humble opinion. Feel free to use pork sausage if you prefer.

    Making gnocchi from scratch is time consuming but loads of fun if you like to cook … and even more fun if you do it with others who like to cook also. But feel free to buy gnocchi. You can find vacuum packed gnocchi at Trader Joe’s and other stores. If you want to make your own, I’m attaching a recipe PDF here.

    Feel free to substitute pasta for the gnocchi. I would use a substantial short pasta such as rigatoni, or possibly farfalle (which we call bowtie but actually translates butterfly).

    The sauce for this recipe is a cream sauce. Feel free to make extra if you want to enjoy some another evening (with Fettucine Alfredo for instance). The best cream for making this is the extra heavy whipping cream with 40% fat. We used the Darigold brand at Frankie’s and it is available in most supermarkets as well as Costco. It reduces better than lighter creams without separating. Unfortunately, it is usually only available in half gallon sizes. The next best option, available in pints, is 36% Heavy whipping Cream.

    In this recipe, I call for sausage links. I prefer it this way, but bulk sausage would also work. You’ll find the recipe written out below, or available as a printable PDF.

    Buon appetito! Frankie

    Serves 4 as a main course / 6 as a first course

    • 1 recipe Potato Gnocchi (or one pound store bought gnocchi or pasta)
    • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts–toasted
    • 4 Chicken Italian sausage links (or pork if you’d prefer)
    • 1 pint heavy cream
    • 6 ounces gorgonzola cheese
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1 ounce lemon juice
    • 2 cups diced apples (I prefer Gala)
    • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic–minced
    • Parmesan (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano) – grated or curled
    • Chopped herb such as Italian parsley or sage for garnish

    Procedure:

    • If making your own gnocchi, prepare as per recipe available above. Set aside.
    • To toast walnuts, place in a dry skillet over low to medium heat and toast, stirring occasionally until medium brown and fragrant–about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside and wipe skillet with paper towel.
    • Add a little olive oil to the skillet and cook sausages over medium heat until the exterior is well browned. Add enough water to cover the sausages about two-thirds. Bring to a brisk simmer and continue to cook, adding additional water if needed, until the sausages reach an internal temperature of 165º F. Set sausages aside to cool. Wipe out skillet.
    • Add cream to skillet and simmer over low-medium heat until reduced by about 20%. Add white wine and simmer for about 2 minutes longer. Add gorgonzola cheese and lemon juice and stir in to melt cheese. Remove from heat.
    • Bring 3 to 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot for cooking gnocchi. When water comes to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt.
    • While water is heating, slice sausages into bite size pieces. Heat a little oil in a straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add sliced sausages and diced apples and sauté until apples begin to soften and caramelize. Add garlic. Stir and cook one additional minute.
    • Add sauce to pan with sausage and apples. Turn to very low heat.
    • Working in batches, add gnocchi to water and cook until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.
    • When all gnocchi are cooked, add them to the pan with the sauce, sausage and apples. Gently toss.
    • Platter and garnish with parmesan, and parsley or sage.

    So, what kind of wine to drink with this dish? I would recommend something creamy and viscous, such as a buttery chardonnay, or something to match the sweetness of the apples such as a Gewurztraminer.

    Keto friendly Zucchini Lasagne – It’s delicious!

    For the first time ever, I shot all the photos with my cell phone.

    My wife and I are experimenting with the Keto diet, trying to shed some stubborn fat that gets harder to lose when you get older. If you’re not familiar with the diet, it is a high fat, super low-carb diet. So, in this recipe I substituted zucchini for the lasagna noodles. The good news is it was every bit as good as my regular Lasagna recipe.

    This was a bit of an improv recipe. I’ve made lasagna enough times that I was able to guess on some of the quantities. I’ve done my best to quantify them for you in the recipe. Don’t worry if not exact. I listed a couple of my improv shortcuts below.

    I started with mis-en-place which is the French term for putting everything in place–before beginning. I started by dicing some onions and slicing mushrooms and garlic. I then used a chef’s knife to slice the zucchini into long strips, less than a quarter inch thick. A mandolin might work even better if you have one.

    I grilled my zucchini. I did this for two reasons. First, I wanted to make sure it was fully cooked and tender. Secondly, vegetables can give off a lot of water when cooking. I didn’t want my lasagna to end up a soupy mess. It worked perfectly.

    While I was grilling my zucchini, I had a second pan going. I sauteed my onions and mushrooms together until both were softened. I then added my garlic and cooked for another couple of minutes (you never want to burn garlic!). I set them aside and cooked my sausage. I drained the sausage then added the mushrooms, onions, and garlic back to the sausage.

    IMPROV SHORTCUT TIPS:

    I had a couple of cheats going for me. I used a jar of good Marinara sauce. Certainly, you could make your own! I usually do. But on this day, I was trying to keep this recipe simple.

    I also happened to have some cheese mixture left over from when we made calzones for a family birthday party recently. Don’t worry … It’s easy … it was a simple mixture of Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. I could have added an egg, which helps bind the mixture together when baking. I left it out and it was fine.

    With this done, I began to assemble my lasagna. I put down a layer of marinara on the bottom, then a layer of zucchini. I then added a layer (half) of my sausage, onions, mushroom mixture. I topped that with a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat for a second layer, then top it with additional mozzarella.

    All that remained was to bake and enjoy. We covered it with foil for the first 40 minutes. Then remove it for the final ten minutes so the cheese could brown. It’s best to then let it rest for about fifteen minutes. You’ll see that it looked delicious. And it was!

    Buon Appetito! Frankie

    It’s Tomato Time! Try this Tuscan Bread Salad

    Tuscan Bread Salad

    In Tuscany, as in other parts of Italy, leftover bread rarely goes to waste. This tradition hearkens back to the days when poverty made it a necessity to use every morsel. The Italians, being a crafty sort, developed many delicious ways to use their old bread, including this heavenly salad. It is best of course with fresh summer tomatoes from your garden or farmer’s market.

    4-5 servings

    Vinaigrette Dressing:

    3 tablespoons red wine (or Sherry) vinegar

    juice of 1 medium lemon

    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

    2 cloves garlic-pressed

    2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    fresh ground black pepper—several grinds

    Salad:

    4 cups day-old rustic Italian bread—cut into 1-inch cubes

    2-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (consider using red cherry tomatoes and yellow teardrop tomatoes)

    1 small red onion—cut into thin slivers

    3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

    2 cups fresh salad greens or arugula

    shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Procedure:

    • If your bread is too fresh, cut it up early and let it sit for a few hours, or put the cut-up bread on a tray in a slightly warm oven to speed the process.
    • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Reserve about 3 tablespoons of the dressing and set aside.
    • Add the bread to the large mixing bowl with the dressing. Toss well and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
    • Add the tomatoes, red onion, parsley and remaining dressing and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
    • Spread salad greens on a serving platter. Place bread atop salad greens. Top with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and serve.

    Frankie’s Tips:
    I’ve thoroughly researched traditional Bread Salads and found that there are many other ingredients which are frequently used. Feel free to add any of these that suit your fancy…
    ~ Calamata or other olives (such as Nicoise)
    ~ Chopped cucumber
    ~ Capers (drained and rinsed of brine)
    ~ Fresh basil
    ~ Garbanzo beans
    ~ Hard boiled eggs
    ~ Shaved Ricotta Salata cheese (which is a pressed, salted, and dried version of ricotta), to replace the Parmigiano-Reggiano
    ~ You can even turn this into an entrée salad by adding tuna (I would recommend the good white tuna in the foil pouch) or by adding pancetta (Italian style bacon) or regular bacon chopped and crumbled over the top.