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.

Frankie’s Pasta Bolognese

This recipe is featured in my novel, Missing in Firenze, book #2 in the Antonio Cortese Mysteries. In the story it is served to the family in the trattoria owned by a friend.in Firenze. For more information on my novels, check out my author website: frankcurtiss.com

This recipe was originally published in my cookbook, Frankie at Home in the Kitchen, available as an eBook on Amazon:

I don’t want to boast, but I spent much time fine-tuning this sauce, and I must say; that it is one of the best pasta sauces I have ever tasted. It was so good I almost wanted to cry!

About Bolognese:

Bolognese sauce originates from the proud city of Bologna (thus the name), which lies in the heart of the fertile Po Valley in Emilia-Romagna, in north-central Italy. It is a very cultured city which many consider to be the culinary capitol of Italy. If this sauce is any indication, I would agree. Bolognese is different from other meat sauces in that the meat is the star of the show, with the tomatoes in a supporting role. But there is one catch, you must start this sauce early in the afternoon, because it needs more than an hour to prepare and another three hours to simmer very slowly. This tenderizes the meat, so it melts in your mouth, causing your taste buds to scream bravo, bravo!


Makes 5-6 Servings

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup onion—chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup carrot—chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup celery—chopped fine
  • 6 ounces Pancetta—diced in small
  • pieces (1/4” or smaller)
  • 1 clove garlic—minced
  • 3/4-pound ground beef*
  • 3/4-pound ground veal*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
  • 28 oz. can Whole Peeled Tomatoes—broken up with your hands
  • 3/4 cup canned Tomato Sauce
  • pinch crushed red peppers (optional)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hearty pasta—such as rigatoni (my favorite), fettuccine or tagliatelle
  • parmesan (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano) – grated or curled
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley—chopped
  1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed
    Dutch oven or a large deep skillet. Sauté the onion,
    carrots and celery until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add Pancetta and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and
    cook until onions begin to brown and garlic is softened and
    fragrant—2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ground meats and 1/2 teaspoon salt. As meat
    cooks, chop it relatively fine with the back of a wooden
    spoon, until it just loses its raw color, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the milk and simmer until it evaporates, about 10 to
    12 minutes (there will still be some clear liquid visible from
    the fats).
  5. Add the white wine and simmer until it evaporates, 12
    to 15 minutes. Use your wooden spoon to scrape any
    browned-bits from the bottom of the pan (lot’s of flavor!).
  6. Add the Whole Peeled Tomatoes with their juices, the
    Tomato Sauce, the chicken stock, and a pinch of crushed
    red peppers if desired. Bring to a simmer. Then reduce
    heat as low as it will go and simmer, stirring occasionally,
    for 3 hours (see Frankie’s Tip’s).
  7. Add several twists of fresh ground black pepper. Taste
    and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  8. When the sauce is almost done cooking, bring a large
    pot to a boil over high heat and add a tablespoon of salt.
    Cook your pasta until nearly al dente. Reserve about a
    1/4 cup of pasta water before draining.
  9. Drain pasta and return to the pasta pot. Stir the sauce into
    the pasta and pour in the reserved pasta water. Cook over
    medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  10. Serve up with parmesan and garnish with Italian parsley.

Pasta Giardiniera AKA Farmer’s Market Pasta

Penne Giardiniera

Pasta Giardiniera translates Garden Pasta. It is a vegetarian (and vegan) pasta, but of course you can always add some meat if you prefer. Feel free to use any pasta you like.

In my first novel, Deception in Siena, Antonio Cortese and his Aunt Chiara go to the garden to see what they can find. If you don’t have your own vegetable garden, the next best option is to go to your local Farmer’s Market and see what fresh, seasonal produce is available.

I’ve named my version “Farmer’s Market Pasta” because I love to support the local farmers and believe that local farmer’s markets are one of the best places to buy fresh, full-flavored local produce.

Recipes for Giardiniera sauces are very flexible. You can use whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables that you like. Often the base sauce would be a standard tomato or Marinara sauce. I’ve chosen to do this version with our un-cooked Pomodoro sauce which is a little lighter and fresher.

Fresh Asparagus
Farfalle (Bow-tie) Giardiniera
Crook neck zucchini

Frankie’s Tips:
♦ If the weather is nice, consider grilling your
vegetables on the barbecue! This is my favorite
way to cook them for optimal flavor. If you don’t
have a vegetable grilling pan for your barbecue,
then cut the vegetables in larger slices for grilling and then cut them smaller afterwards. You could also skewer them.
♦ Another good method is to cook them in a grill
pan with raised ridges. If you don’t have one, any sauté pan will work.
♦ Depending on the season, some of my favorite
veggies for this are asparagus, peppers, zucchini or other squash, eggplant, broccoli raab, and onions (small onions like Cipollini’s are perfect).

Heirloom Tomatoes

Suggested Wine: Nebbiolo
The name Nebbiolo comes from the root word nebbia which means fog in Italian. It hales from the northern Italian region of Piedmont. There, the fog sits upon the valleys and hillsides throughout the autumn, slowing the ripening process, and developing great depth of character.


Giardiniera Recipe – serves 5-6:

  • 1-pound pasta of your choice
  • 1 recipe Pomodoro Sauce (recipe below)
  • Fresh vegetables of your choice–cut into bite size pieces
  • Extra Virgin olive oil (to toss vegetables with)
  • Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese–grated or curled
  • Fresh herb of your choice for garnish

Giardiniera Procedure:

  1. Prepare Pomodoro sauce and set aside. It’s even better if made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.
  2. Toss vegetables with olive oil and cook until tender (See Frankie’s Tips above).
  3. Heat 4 quarts of water and add a tablespoon of salt when it begins to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining.
  4. While pasta is cooking, combine sauce and veggies and warm gently over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When pasta is al dente, add to sauce along with the 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water. Toss together.
  6. Garnish with cheese and herbs.
  7. Tell God “mille grazie” for the delicious meal that is going to make you vibrant and healthy!
Pomodoro Sauce

Pomodoro Sauce recipe – makes 5-6 servings

  • 1 – 28 oz. can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic—pressed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil—julienned
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably Sea Salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Pomodoro Sauce Procedure:

  • Smell the fresh basil and say “thank you” to God for the good things in life.
  • Place tomatoes with their juice in a large bowl. Crush tomatoes with your hands.
  • Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. I told you this was quick and easy!

Printable PDF for Pasta Giardiniera (AKA Farmer’s Market Pasta)

Printable PDF for Pomodoro Sauce

Pasta al Limone con Gamberi

Pasta with Lemon & Shrimp: An Antonio Cortese Mystery Recipe

This is my first post in a long time. For those who don’t know, I have begun to write mystery-detective novels set in Italy. The protagonist is an Italian American, an ex-detective who now owns an Italian restaurant. He has a lot of family in Tuscany (where his mother comes from), so when he returns, a lot of cooking and eating takes place. People have started to ask me for the recipes of foods featured in the stories, so I decided to begin posting them here on my food blog.

Find out more about my novels at…

https://www.frankcurtiss.com/

This recipe is featured in my second novel, Missing in Firenze, of the Antonio Cortese Mystery series. In the novel, this dish is prepared by Antonio’s Zio (Uncle) Pasquale and Zia Frankie.

Pasquale and Frankie are the owners of a lovely little boutique hotel in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. This is a traditional recipe from that area, where lemon trees abound. It is often made without the addition any meat or seafood, but it is not uncommon for the locals to add seafood of some kind. Feel free to make it either way, or with any other seafood that appeals to you. Buon appetito!

As with any recipe I highly recommend you do your Mis en Place (French term for pre-prep, meaning Everything in Place) before you start the actually cooking.

You’ll be using every part of the lemons for this recipe. The lemons I used were very large, so I zested and juiced two instead of the three medium lemons called for in the recipe. After zesting and juicing, throw the lemon rinds in the pasta water.

Now it’s time to start cooking. This is just an overview. Check the recipe for the details. First, start your pasta water heating. Next, heat your butter and olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add your shrimp and capers, cook some, then add your garlic. Next add the white wine.

I like to use a high-quality, grass-fed butter, such as Kerrygold.

It’s important not to overcook the shrimp or they will become rubbery. When they are ALMOST fully cooked turn off the heat.

Cook your pasta a little less than al dente (about 1 minute less than package instructions). Don’t forget to reserve some starchy pasta water before you drain your pasta! It is used to add viscosity and thicken your sauce. Combine it with your lemon juice mixture.

Now, turn the heat back on under shrimp. Add pasta. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the top and toss furiously. Cook one to two minutes until pasta is al dente and shrimp are properly cooked. Platter and garnish with Italian parsley.

Raise a glass and toast those whom God has given you to love. Buon appetito!

Wine Recommendation: This pasta would pair beautifully with a white wine from Campania, such as Fiano di Avellina. If you can’t find one, I suggest a good Pinot Grigio

5-6 servings:

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta (spaghetti or linguine)

4 medium size lemons

Fresh ground black pepper—coarse ground

sea salt (or other high quality salt)

2 ounces butter (preferably grass fed)

2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers (rinsed and drained)

3-4 cloves of garlic

3 ounces white wine

Italian parsley—chopped (for garnish)

12-16 ounces shrimp—peeled & deveined (and at least partially thawed if frozen)

PROCEDURE:

1. Cut one of the lemons into wedges and set aside.

2. Zest the remaining three lemons into a bowl.

3. Juice those same three lemons into the bowl with the lemon zest. Add lemon rinds to the pasta water.

4. Rinse and drain capers and set aside.

5. Slice garlic thin. Set aside.

6. Chop parsley and set aside.

7. Grind a generous amount of pepper into the lemon mixture. Add salt (start with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon).

8. Begin to heat 4 quarts of water. When water begins to boil, add a tablespoon of salt.  

9. Add butter and oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer.

10. Add shrimp and capers. Sauté for about two minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

11. Add white wine and allow to simmer (watch out for flame-up!). Turn off heat when shrimp are almost fully cooked.

12. When water is boiling, cook pasta until nearly “al dente” (about one minute less than package instructions).

13. Before you drain the pasta, ladle 3-4 ounces of starchy pasta water into lemon mixture. Drain pasta.

14. Turn the heat back on under shrimp. Add pasta. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the top and toss furiously. Cook one to two minutes until pasta is al dente and shrimp are properly cooked.

15. Platter and garnish with Italian parsley.

16. Raise a glass and toast those whom God has given you to love.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato to die for!

I’ve posted a couple of gelato recipes in the last year.  I hope you’re not tired of them because I recently made this for a catering and it was so good I had to share.  I used the same method I’ve used before of creating a custard base.  I then looked at a variety of recipes before creating my own flavor version.  I doubt if you will find a better recipe.

Why it’s so good:  This fabulous gelato gets a triple hit of chocolate from cocoa powder, melted dark chocolate, and chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella). It also gets a triple dose of hazelnut from the Nutella, chopped hazelnuts, and hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico if you choose to use it (if not you can substitute vanilla). And I’ve given it a touch more salt than most recipes which I think really kicks up the flavor.

About the process:  As with with my previous gelato recipes you want to make the custard base in advance and let it ‘fully’ cool before freezing it in you ice cream maker. I suggest making it in the morning, or even a day ahead.

To make the custard you mix egg yolks with some of the sugar until it becomes a pale yellow color and and thick enough to fall in ribbons from the beaters.

For this recipe you next stir in some cocoa powder.  Mine got a bit clumpy so in the future I will use a sifter to sift the cocoa powder into the custard.

Meanwhile, you heat your milk, cream and remaining sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Heat to 175 F, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.

Once the milk mixture reaches 175 F, turn the heat to low.  Then temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into egg mixture to thin it and raise it’s temperature gradually. Then slowly whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture.

Next, keeping the heat on low, heat the custard, stirring constantly, until a temperature of 180 degrees is reached. The custard should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

While the custard was heating, I melted my chocolate on low in the microwave and stirred into the custard. Then add hazelnut spread and salt.

When 180 F is reached, turn off heat and whisk in hazelnut liqueur (or vanilla).
If you see any chunks of curdled egg, pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or container.  If you tempered the egg mixture properly you may not need to do this (I did not).

At this point you want to place the bowl into a larger bowl of ice water, whisking occasionally, to bring the custard to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is 40 F or lower. This can take 4-8 hours

About the Hazelnuts:  

If you bought un-toasted (or roasted) hazelnuts, you’ll want to do that yourself.  If you’ve never done it there are many info sources online. I found skinned and roasted hazelnuts at Trader Joe’s. I then chopped them roughly in my food processor.

The Final Step: Freezing the Gelato

When properly chilled, stir together the custard and hazelnuts.

Blend in your ice cream or gelato maker. You can eat immediately or freeze for a couple of hours or longer.  In most cases the latter makes more sense.  But ideally gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream, so I pull it out and let it sit 10-20 minutes prior to serving.

Buon appetite!

Buona sera.  May God bless your table abundantly with joy, laughter, and his amazing love!

Frankie

Sweet Potato Gnocchi… a perfect comfort food for Autumn

Happy chef!

Autumn has already arrived here in the Pacific Northwest.  Not many leaves have changed color yet but we’re getting plenty of cool and wet days.  So let’s warm you up with some comfort food.  This dish feels like Autumn to me.  Maybe it’s the color of the sweet potatoes that make it feel that way.

Making your own gnocchi takes a little time and practice but it really is not difficult and once you start to get the hang of it, it is great fun. If you want to double or triple the fun, make them with some friends or family.  Or even more fun still, hire me (Frankie) to come and do a cooking class party in your home!

Peeled sweet potatoes

There are really two different recipes here, one for making the gnocchi, and the other for the way I recently made mine with Butter, Pancetta, Onions and fresh Sage.  I wanted something that would complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sweet potatoes, and this really turned out great.  If you wanted to make this vegetarian you could leave out the pancetta; and if you wanted it completely vegan, leave out the butter and use only a good extra virgin olive oil.

Using a potato ricer

If you’ve never made gnocchi be sure to read the Tips for Making Homemade Gnocchi  before you launch into the recipe.

The key is getting the dough right… not too moist… not too dry.  I instruct you add most of the flour but then you add more as needed until you get just past the point of the dough being sticky. You don’t want to overwork it or it will get tough.  You want it

Adding flour

to be no longer sticky but still supple, workable, and holding together (not crumbly).  I can’t tell you exactly how much flour because different potatoes will have different moisture levels depending on the type of potato, the baking, etc.  Besides, the amount of potato may vary also.  If your weight is a little over or under, just adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

Mixing dough

A Couple of tools are really handy when making gnocchi.  Using a potato ricer helps so the potatoes are not lumpy which will cause them to crumble.  Most cost under $25 and they are awesome to use when making mashed potatoes.  If you don’t have one, just mash the potatoes well.

Form a ball

Rolling dough

Cutting dough

Adding ridges with gnocchi board

The other tool is a gnocchi board, used for putting ridges on the gnocchi.  These are only about $6 on Amazon.  Order it today and you’ll have it in a day.  Here is the one I bought…

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Fantes-Gnocchi-Beechwood-8-Inches-Original/dp/B0019R7SPS/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15YRPY0G6TRGD&keywords=gnocchi+board&qid=1568750620&s=gateway&sprefix=gnocc%2Caps%2C213&sr=8-2

Finished gnocchi

Another tip or two:
  1. Instead of cutting the dough into balls, it will make it easier to roll out if you cut it in longer, narrower pieces.
  2. Also, if you over-flour the work surface it will make the dough harder to roll.  It will want to just slide around under your hands.

HOW I SERVED MY SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI:

Making the butter, pancetta, onion, sage sauce

As mentioned earlier I wanted something that would complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sweet potatoes.  A very common way to serve potato gnocchi in Italy in with a simple butter and sage sauce.  I wanted to take it to another level so I added pancetta (Italian bacon) and onions to that.  There are lots of other good ideas online. A friend told be about a sauce she did with butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cranberries, and pecans. Sounds great, and the sweetness would work with these.

 

 

Vegetarian Option: Easy just leave out the pancetta.

Vegan Option: Our granddaughter is vegan.  They don’t do butter.  For her’s we simply eliminated that in favor of a good extra virgin olive oil (or walnut oil would be excellent).

 

Recipes are following.  If you’d prefer recipes in PDF format click below

Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe PDF

Buona sera.  May God richly bless your table with joy, laughter, and his abundant love!

Frankie