It was, yet again, another dreary day in Boston today. Though we’re winding down on April, it doesn’t much feel like it around here. I debated staying home to finish a presentation I am giving on Friday, but decided that Friday is still a ways away and that I would have plenty of time to finish. And so, rain and chilly air and all, off I went to a few of my favorite stores around my area. To the mall, you ask? Nope, not at all, I headed to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wilsons Farm in Lexington, MA. I wasn’t really in the need for anything. In fact, I had just done my big grocery shopping for the week. I go to these stores not for “needs” really, but because they are a great way of spending an afternoon, especially a boring one, picking up a few items that the main grocery stores do not carry.
One of those items are frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe’s. There aren’t enough words to describe just how much I love this item. They are absolutely amazing! I’ve been buying them for years and last year, they stopped carrying them! Imagine my disappointment, anger even, when this happened! I add them to soups, I coat them in egg, parmiggiano cheese and breadcrumbs and bake them, I stir-fry them with sausages and I make them in frittata. Lucky for me, about six months ago, they reappeared in the freezer isle! I wonder if my calls and emails had anything to do with that! ;-)
I bought six bags today and went home eager to cook one bag. I was debating just how to prepare them today. Perhaps it was the boring weather but I was feeling a little inventive and decided to cook them in diced tomatoes. Truth be told, I’ve never cooked them this way but have been wanting to for a bit. I wasn’t sure what pasta to use then remembered that I had a special kind that I had been saving for a special recipe. The strozzapreti I used are imported from Calabria, my native region and they are a bit hard to find in the store. In fact, these come from the online shop Pasta & Vino. “Strozzapreti” means to choke priests! They somewhat resemble cavatelli pasta. Where does the name come from, you ask? There are several stories but one is that gluttonous priests devoured this pasta so quickly, due to its deliciousness that they, well, chocked! I’m not sure how true that is but they were very good! Unlike typical dry pasta, they very much taste like freshly made pasta. Their flavor is a lot more delicate and tantalizing than your everyday dry pasta.
I made the sauce using diced tomatoes and one small can of ground tomatoes. I also used imported olive oil, from Calabria, of course! The sauce takes about 25 minutes to cook and the strozzapreti take just two extra minutes than regular pasta, so about 12 minutes, so halfway through the sauce cooking, you can add the pasta to the boiling water. You can purchase the strazzapreti, oil and other delicious products here. Pasta & Vino is a great resource for authentic Italian ingredients that are hard or impossible to find in the grocery stores. Many of their items are imported from Calabria, so that excites me even more!
Strozzapreti with Artichokes and Tomatoes
3 Tablespoons Migliaresi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Small Onion, Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
3 Sprigs of Parsley, Finely Chopped
1 Teaspoon salt
1 14.5 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1 8 oz Can Crushed Tomato Sauce
1 12 oz Bag Frozen Artichoke Hearts
½ pound Astorino Strozzapreti pasta
If Rome has the carbonara, and Bologna has the fettuccine in Bolognase sauce, than Puglia’s dish to fame is Orecchietti with Sausages and Broccoli Rabe! Puglia is a region in Southern Italy and being a Southerner myself, its cuisine is certainly something I enjoy eating and preparing. I recall growing up in Calabria and being surrounded by wonderful produce. My father was a produce merchant, so we certainly never lacked for great produce around the house. Summertime favorites growing up were zucchini and their delicate blossoms, eggplants and of course, tomatoes! If you have never had a freshly plucked tomato in August in Calabria, well, I will go so far as to say that you’ve never had a really delicious tomato! They are just amazing simply sliced with salt and olive oil. A fresh mozzarella next to them always helps too! ;-)
One vegetable that is versatile and found year-round is broccoli and also broccoli rabe, or rapini. I really enjoy both and one of my favorite ways of preparing the rabe is in this typical Pugliese dish. The Pugliese are known for their orecchiette shaped pasta. Orecchiette means little ears, although I think they look like small caps more than little ears! It’s very typical to walk in the streets of Bari and find local women making these fresh and selling them right on the streets. If you happen to find yourself there, I highly recommend buying a kilo or two, you will not be disappointed.
This is my version of how to make this classic dish. Everyone has his or her own way but I have found I rather like my version, if I do say so myself! Many do not use the onion that I add, but I really like it and find that it adds lots of flavor, so I use it. Add garlic too, if you wish, although I do not in this dish. This dish serves about 4 people.
Orecchietti with Sausages & Broccoli Rabe
2 bunches broccoli rabe, trimmed, and washed
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 small onion, chopped
1 – 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
4 pre-cooked sausages of your choice (pork, chicken, hot, sweet)
1/2 pound orecchietti pasta
Ready to make your 2018 Italian Travel Dreams come true? Consider joining us in one of our Culinary Adventures! We have three planned!
CALABRIA: August 31 - September 7, 2018 Click here for more info!
PUGLIA: September 9 - 16, 2018 Click her for more info!
BOLOGNA: October 1 - 8, 2018 Click here for info!
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