Carbonara is such a quick supper. It is rich and creamy (without any cream), thanks to the egg yolks and mountains of cheese. Artichokes bring a slight citrus flavor that balances the richness of the sauce.
Italian sausage and white bean braise is a super-easy start-up variation on meatballs. The key is to buy good-quality pork and fennel sausages, either at your local butcher or the supermarket.
This Sicilian-inspired pesto is quick to prepare, refreshing, and delicious, and can also be eaten cold, so leftovers are perfect for your lunchbox the next day. It makes a delicious topping for crostini, too, so it’s worth making plenty. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze to use at another time.
There are as many lasagna recipes as there are cooks in Italy, yet, with so much variation, there is one regional tradition that stands out among all the others: Bologna’s lasagna. It is the lasagna that all others aspire (and fail) to be. This particular incarnation of Italy’s famous recipe features sheets of spinach pasta layered with meat ragù and béchamel.
For a more assertive, slightly spicy alternative to traditional basil pesto, we first processed almonds (toasted first to enhance their rich flavor) with lots of garlic, anchovies, and a serrano chile until the mixture was finely chopped. Then we processed the mixture in a food processor with peppery arugula, lemon juice, and olive oil until the sauce was smooth.
The inspiration for this recipes was Pan Bagnat, the traditional Nice “sandwich,” in which the top of a round loaf would be sliced off and some of the crumb hollowed out, mixed with tuna, olives, anchovies, etc. then spooned back in and the “lid” put on top. Later variations are often made with ham and cheese, and sometimes peppers layered up neatly inside the bread “shell,” but I thought it would be fun to stuff the ingredients between the slices of a whole loaf, and bake it. We often make this for lunch. and everyone loves it warm, but it is also a great picnic showstopper. You can carry it with you, still in its foil, then just open it up, drizzle with oil and let everyone help themselves. Although I have suggested using prosciutto and mozzarella, which melts very well, I always associate pain surprise with Provence, as I like to make it when I am there on holiday with the family, but using local cured ham and cheese instead.
Some Neapolitans say this dish is simplified French ratatouille, while others contend that ratatouille is complicated cianfotta. Either way, this stew is a tender medley of seasonal summer produce. While cooking cianfotta, as it’s known in the local dialect (ciambotta in Italian), you want everything to sort of steam in its own juices; you’ll need to control the heat so you don’t need to add any water. In the end, the vegetables should be very soft and almost falling apart and the flavors should all be beautifully married.
Spelt Spaghetti with Wild Mushrooms & Parmesan Cream
(Spaghetti di Farro con Funghi e Crema di Parmigiano)
Attend a festival in Le Marche, and you may sample one of the greatest snacks you’ll ever have: olive all’ascolana. Crisp-coated, salty fried olives stuffed with a rich meat filling are a culinary marvel of taste and texture that originated in the town of Ascoli Piceno. We just had to try making these delightful bites, but we suspected it might be a challenge—after all, we’d have to figure out how to pit and stuff an olive! We tried starting with pitted olives as a short-cut, but found them lacking in color, texture, and overall olive flavor. Instead we used large, mild-flavored Cerignola olives, which are easy to find in delis and prepared food places. To remove the pits, we left the olive flesh in one piece, slicing down one side of the olive and cutting around the pit with a paring knife as if we were peeling an apple. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the process went quickly after we got used to pitting the first few. With these olives, the filling shares the spotlight, and we found a lot of impractical recipes calling for a menagerie of meat scraps or specialty cuts. We started with ground pork; while uninspiring by itself, additions of prosciutto, sautéed carrot, and shallot built beautiful layers of flavor. A little nutmeg provided the classic warm spice and aroma, while wine added brightness. One large yolk and Parmigiano gave the filling richness and a creamy texture. We prefer to use Cerignola olives, but other large brine-cured green olives will work, too. To allow for practice, the recipe calls for extra olives.
In wintertime and early spring in Puglia, locals combine their winter stores of dried fava beans with peppery wild chicory into a satisfying, hearty dish. Dried fava beans are typically cooked until they can be mashed into a smooth puree and then topped with sautéed chicory dressed simply with olive oil and salt. Wild chicory isn’t commonplace in American markets, but we still embraced the dish’s humble roots by using more readily available escarole, which is a member of the chicory family: It's easy to find, quick cooking, and offers a similar pleasant bitterness. To amp up flavor and add brightness to the dish, we added chili flakes and lemon zest to the greens, which balanced out the bitter notes. With the greens settled, we turned our attention to creating a smooth, silky puree from the fava beans. Potato is a traditional addition to this dish, as it lends a smooth, unctuous texture; we found that adding just one potato to the pot with the beans was enough to achieve the consistency we were after. Rather than mash the cooked fava beans and potato with a potato masher, we passed them through a food mill or potato ricer to ensure a silky smooth texture. Finally, we finished the dish with shaved Pecorino for a salty bite that enhanced the complex, earthy flavors of the fava beans.