Recipe: Pasta a la Gandolfini

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.

More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.

Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.

He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.

So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.

This is what I came up with — a  pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.

But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.

The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.

This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.

Pasta a la Gandolfini

Servings, 2

1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred

3/4lb  fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.

1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced

1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned

4 Garlic Cloves, julienned

1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden

1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)

Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.

Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.

Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.

Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.

Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese.  Toss and serve.


NJ Dining: Arturo’s Osteria

October 25, 2009

Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria
188 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood NJ
(973)378-5800

Web Site: http://www.arturosnj.com

Dan Richer, Chef/Owner of Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood.

After meeting the young and food passionate Dan Richer at the recent New Jersey Les Marmitons beer dinner, I knew that this was a guy who’s restaurant I needed to go eat at.

Richer, who has no formal culinary training but who has a passion for cooking Italian cuisine, purchased Arturo’s from the original owners (which opened in 1991 as a wood fired pizzeria) in 2006. Richer has staged at many restaurants in Italy, frequently travels to Europe and has taken what he has learned and brought it back to his small Maplewood restaurant, which has a focus on pasta, pizza, and locally sourced ingredients. While Arturo’s retains a basic menu of pasta dishes, salads, small plates and artisan pizzas, Richer has gained quite a following from his regulars and has introduced tasting menus where everything is completely off-menu and seasonal.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Fasta Pasta: An “As Seen on TV” product that actually works!

February 8, 2009

by Rachel Perlow

Fasta Pasta by you.

The Fasta Pasta microwave macaroni cooker.

We first saw the Fasta Pasta on the TV in December. It wasn’t actually an ad or infomercial, it was on a local news product review segment. They started by saying another fast pasta cooker product (the one that you just pour boiling water over the pasta) didn’t work in their previous segment. It just made mushy but still uncooked noodles, like they had just been re-hydrated. So, they were skeptical about the Fasta Pasta — as were we. They followed the instructions and lo and behold it worked! Still incredulous, we contacted the manufacturer and they were kind enough to send us one to review. And, guess what? It works!

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Drago’s (Hilton)

September 16, 2007

Click Here for Hi-Res Slide Show!

Drago’s at Hilton New Orleans Riverside
2 Poydras Street, New Orleans LA

Every time I visit New Orleans, Drago’s restaurant in nearby Metairie is always on the top of my to-go list. Their charbroiled oysters are my absolute favorite and you can make a meal of them just by themselves. We had tried to eat there on our first night back, but had discovered the restaurant was closed on Sunday.

Later on in the week we discovered that Drago’s owner Tommy Cvitanovich had opened a brand new location in the downtown Hilton hotel, near the Riverwalk shopping center. As we were across the street at Grand Isle checking out their happy hour, I absolutely had to try the new place and see if it lived up to the original.

The new Drago’s location at the downtown Hilton Riverside.

If it looks like Drago’s, if it smells like Drago’s, It is Drago’s. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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NJ Dining: Bartolomeo (Old Location)

July 6, 2007

Bartolomeo has Moved to Englewood. Click Here to read about the new store.

When I want Italian deli and gourmet items, my first instinct is to head right to the Bronx for the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. However, I’m not always in the mood to head over the GW and into a potential Cross-Bronx traffic quagmire, so I’m always on the lookout for good Italian stores here in Northern NJ. The most notable one in the area is Jerry’s Gourmet in Englewood (a Ridgewood location also opened in 2006) but it can be a mob scene on the weekends and the parking lot is frequently full.

Click Here for Hi-Res Slide Show

Bartolomeo, a much smaller store in Palisades Park, has escaped my notice for several years now, but for no longer — it’s going to remain on my hot list whenever I need good salumi, pasta, and Italian goods for our pantry.

The Bartolomeo store on Grand Avenue in Palisdades Park. Plans are being made for a second larger store in downtown Englewood.

You don’t need to go to the Bronx to get great Italian gourmet goods. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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