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Mar 20, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

First Look: Cibare at River City Casino

Thursday, November 10th, 2016



Italy came to River City Casino last week when Cibare Italian Kitchen opened on Thursday, Nov. 3. Located in a 3,644-square-foot space inside the casino, Cibare offers 83 seats where patrons can enjoy a menu of fresh pastas, Neapolitan-style pizzas and Italian entrees.

Though River City is most well known for its casino, “We’re a restaurant destination, too,” said executive chef Josh Schlink. Cibare’s chef de cuisine Pierpaolo Pittia, who is from Udine, Italy, said the kitchen is focused on the simplicity of Italian cuisine, using just three or four ingredients in dishes.

Fresh pasta is made for dishes like the classic bucatini all’amatriciana, featuring San Marzano tomatoes and a hint of chile, or the strozzapreti made with braised beef, pancetta and caramelized onions. The 6-foot-tall Wood Stone oven towering in a corner of the dining room can turn out seven to eight Neapolitan-style pizzas at once for lunch or dinner. The shorter lunch menu also features panini sandwiches.

Executive pastry chef David Laufer prepare sweet treats, which are available from the attached coffee shop and bakery beginning at 6 a.m., daily. Laufer, who previously worked at The Preston in The Chase Park Plaza, moved to River City for the chance to showcase more desserts in a retail outlet alongside his restaurant menu. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Laufer said. Customers can pick up whole cakes, pies or an assortment of cookies and pastries from the attached bakery, along with Laufer’s house-made gelato.

Cibare is open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Here, a first look at River City Casino’s newest restaurant:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

By the Book: “Puglia” by The Silver Spoon

Friday, January 22nd, 2016



The Puglia region of Italy is situated on the Adriatic Sea in Italy’s boot heel, and like other Italian regions, this picturesque locale has a distinct culinary heritage that the editors of The Silver Spoon Series attempted to capture in Puglia. Loving the idea of a simple Mediterranean pasta, I opted for the Fusilli con la Mollica, which essentially translates to twisty pasta and croutons.

With only seven ingredients including a healthy portion of pecorino cheese and anchovies melted in oil, I expected a rich, deeply-flavored, slightly salty bowl. Instead it fell flat, monotone with a bit of an unpleasant funk. I lay the fault for this strange flavor profile directly on the shoulders of the oil. The recipe called for two tablespoons vegetable oil, which did the job of melting the anchovies, but it did not impart the flavor that an olive oil or butter might have. The addition of some garlic, red pepper flake or a squeeze of lemon juice might have added some much-needed oomph.

All in all, this recipe was easy, the ingredients were accessible and it came together in a snap. But the results made me sad. Sad enough to drown my sorrows in a big bowl of pasta – just not this one.

Skill Level: Easy to intermediate
This book is for: People interested in learning about ingredients specific to this region of Italy and for those who can discern a good recipe before they make it, or are willing to take liberties with recipes when ingredients or instructions seem unclear.
Other recipes to try: Chard pie – at least it called for olive oil.
The Verdict:  Flour + Water. Hands down. No contest.




Fusilli con la Mollica
4 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Pinch of red chili powder
1 cup crustless croutons
4 salted anchovies
12 oz. fusilli pasta
¾ cup grated pecorino cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

• Heat the oil in a frying pan or skillet. When hot, add a pinch of chili powder, the croutons and anchovies, stirring until the anchovies have melted. Set aside.
• Cook the fusilli in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and tip into the anchovy mixture. Add the pecorino, then saute the pasta over a medium heat for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

Reprinted with courtesy of Phaidon 

By the Book: “Eating Italy” by Jeff Michaud

Friday, January 15th, 2016




For this round of By the Book, I chose a twofold challenge: fettuccine with braised rabbit and porcini. First, there was the emotional challenge of cooking with rabbit (my childhood pet); and second, there were myriad techniques required to build a complex sauce. Luckily, the friendly butchers at Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions broke down two rabbits for me. By the time I saw my bunnies, they looked like just another cut of meat, not the cutest nose-wiggling animals on the planet. With the first obstacle down, it was time to rely on author Jeff Michaud to get me through the next one.

His pasta recipe was clear, resulting in beautiful fresh fettuccine that, when cooked, had the perfect al dente bite. I always recommend making your own noodles, instead of opting for store-bought. You get to play with your food, working with a hand-cranked machine and cutting shapes out of dough. It impresses people, but isn’t actually hard to do. It’s basically the perfect food.

The multi-step braised rabbit with porcini sauce took a lot of time. I had to rehydrate mushrooms, sear rabbit, saute onions, reduce wine, crush tomatoes, braise, shred, puree and top off with butter. But all that effort paid off with intensely deep, mushroom-forward umami flavor. Unfortunately, there were some practical problems. Primarily, this recipe produces nearly double the necessary amount of sauce. If I weren’t committed to cooking precisely by the book, I would never have transferred all my precious pasta into the vat of sauce. Also, this dish isn’t cheap: two whole rabbits and four ounces of dried porcini mushrooms cost a lot of money. That’s the consequence of cooking from a (not your) regional cookbook. But when you love a region, sometimes it’s worth the cost.

Skill level: Intermediate
This book is for: People with a lot of time, money and love for Italy.
Other recipes to try: Candele pasta with wild boar Bolognese
The verdict: Although the pasta had perfect bite and the sauce had miles-deep flavor, flaws in pasta-to-sauce ratio kept Eating Italy from beating out Flour + Water.




Fettuccine with Braised Rabbit and Porcini
6 to 8 servings

1 lb. (450 g.) Egg Pasta Dough rolled into 4 sheets, each about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm.) thick (recipe follows)
4 oz. (113 g.) dried porcini mushrooms (about 1½ cups)
2 rabbits (about 3 lb./1.3 kg. each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60 ml.) olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (2/3 cup/105 g.)
½ cup (120 ml.) white wine
2 cups (480 g.) canned plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, cored and crushed by hand
4 Tbsp. (56 g.) unsalted butter
2¾ ounces (78 g.) Parmesan cheese, grated (¾ cup), divided

• Lay a pasta sheet on your work surface and cut the pasta crosswise into 12-inch (30.5 cm.) lengths, making sure each one is well floured. Run each piece of pasta through a fettuccine cutter and fold it gently onto a floured tray. Repeat with the remaining pasta dough. Dust with flour, cover, and freeze for up to 3 days.
• Soak the porcini in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Pluck out the mushrooms and finely chop. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve.
• Rinse the rabbits and remove the innards and excess fat deposits. Remove the hind legs and forelegs by driving your knife straight through the hip and shoulder joints. Cut each leg in half through the center joints. Snip through the breastbones with kitchen shears, then cut the rabbits crosswise into 5 or 6 pieces each. Season the rabbit pieces all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the rabbit pieces in batches to prevent overcrowding, and sear until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees Celsius).
• Add the onion to the pan, and cook over medium heat until soft but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to scrape the pan bottom. Simmer until the liquid reduces in volume by about half, 5 minutes. Put the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, and almost pureed. Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the chopped mushrooms and the rabbit pieces. Add just enough of the reserved porcini liquid to barely cover the rabbit pieces. Cover and braise in the oven until the rabbit is so tender it falls apart, about 2 hours. Remove the rabbit, let cool slightly, and then pick the meat from the bones, feeling for small bones with your fingers. Shred the meat and discard the skin and bones. Put the braising liquid through a food mill or puree it briefly in a food processor. If the pureed braising liquid is thin, boil it until slightly thickened. Return the shredded meat to the pureed braising liquid.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta in batches to prevent overcrowding, and stir after a couple of seconds to prevent sticking. Cook until tender, 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on whether it is refrigerated or frozen. Drain the pasta and reserve the pasta water.
• Add the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of olive oil and 2 cups (475 ml.) of the pasta water to the ragu. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then lower the heat to medium and simmer gently for a minute or 2. Add the cooked pasta, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. When the sauce is slightly reduced and coats the pasta, add the butter and ½ cup of (50 g.) of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir until the butter melts completely, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plates and garnish with the remaining Parmesan.

Egg Pasta Dough
1 pound (450 g.)

1¼ cups (155 g.) tipo 00 flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. (70 g.) durum flour
9 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil

• Combine both flours in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add the egg yolks, oil and 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of water, mixing just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Add up to 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) more water, if necessary, for the dough to come together.
• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until silky and smooth, about 5 minutes, kneading in a little flour, if necessary, to prevent sticking. The dough is ready when it gently pulls back into place when stretched with your hands. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
• Cut the dough into four equal pieces and let them sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling out. Shape each piece into an oblong disk that’s wide enough to fit the width of your pasta roller. Lightly flour a long work surface and set the pasta roller to its widest setting. Lightly flour one of the disks of dough, pass it through the roller, and then lightly dust the rolled dough with the flour, brushing off the excess with your hands.
• Set the roller to the next narrowest setting and again pass the dough through, dusting again with flour and brushing off the excess. Pass the dough once or twice through each progressively narrower setting. For thicker pasta, such as corzetti, you generally want to roll to about 1/8 inch (3 mm.) thick or setting No. 2 or 3 on the KitchenAid attachment. For strand pasta, such as fettuccine, or for cannelloni, you want to roll about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm.) thick (setting No. 4 or 5 on the KitchenAid attachment). For ravioli, you want to roll the pasta a little thinner, to about 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) thick (setting No. 6 or 7); ravioli sheets should be thin enough that you can read a newspaper through the dough.
• As you roll and each sheet gets longer, drape the sheet over the backs of your hands to easily feed it through the roller. You should end up with a sheet of 4 to 5 feet (1.25 to 1.5 m.) long. Lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface and use a cutting wheel, knife, or the cutter attachment on the pasta machine to create the right pasta shape for the dish you are making.



By the Book: “Flour + Water” by Thomas McNaughton

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


I’ve visited San Francisco twice and both times I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a table at the incredibly popular Flour + Water. So, when the book by Thomas McNaughtan came across my desk, I had to cook out of it. If I wanted to eat Flour + Water food, I was going to have to make it myself.

I chose the tagliatelle Bolognese, and used a dried tagliatelle rather than making it from scratch – instantly simplifying the recipe. To make the sauce, McNaughton emphasizes the most important ingredient: time. The man knows what he’s talking about. This sauce needs five hours to simmer, giving the vegetables, meat, tomato paste, milk and butter all a chance to meld flavors. The sauce gently bubbled, each ingredient slowly imparting its layer of flavor, while I watched TV in the next room. Honestly, the sauce worked harder than I did; I just had to give it time. And this ultra comforting bowl of pasta is worth the wait.

Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced. The recipes seem carefully written. The skill level varies and depends on the complexity of the pasta shape and if you make it from scratch.
This book is for: People who love pasta.
Other recipes to try: Burrata triangoli with preserved lemon, summer squash and mint
The verdict: The dish was a hit. Check back next week when Flour + Water takes on Eating Italy by Jeff Michaud.


Tagliatelle Bolognese

4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
12 ounces ground beef
5 1/2 ounces ground pork
3 1/2 ounces pancetta, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup milk
22 ounces dried tagliatelle pasta
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for finishing

• For the Bolognese, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Saute until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the beef, pork and pancetta; saute, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups of the stock and the tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce the heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.
• In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer; then gradually add to the sauce. Cover the sauce with a lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 1 hour, adding more stock 1/4 cup at a time to thin, if needed.
• Bring a large pot of seasoned water to a boil.
• Transfer the Bolognese to a 12-inch saute pan and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and begin swirling to combine.
• At the same time, drop the pasta in the boiling water. Once the pasta is cooked 80 percent through, about 2 to 3 minutes, add it to the pan. Reserve the pasta water. Continue to simmer, stirring constantly, until you achieve a sauce-like consistence, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the heat.
•To serve, divide the pasta and sauce between four plates. Finish with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.


Reprinted with permission by Ten Speed Press

Best New Restaurants: No. 4 – Randolfi’s Italian Kitchen

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.




Chef-owner Mike Randolph welcomes St. Louisans into his family at his newest restaurant venture, Randolfi’s. The slight spelling alteration honors his Italian heritage; the family’s name was changed when they immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1800s. The space that once housed The Good Pie is now festooned with red-and-white checked tablecloths and photos of generations of Randolphs. It has all the semblance of an old-school Italian-American ristorante, but you won’t find fettuccine Alfredo or garlic bread on this Italian menu.

Neapolitan-style pizzas come out of the same roaring wood-fired pizza oven as in The Good Pie days, but at Randolfi’s, they work well as a sharable starter. Follow the rustic pizza with a sophisticated beef tartare, a silky appetizer with delicate meaty flavor crowned with a luxurious semi-soft cured egg yolk.

Randolph’s passion and attention to detail carry through to the house-made pasta dishes and entrees. Hand-cut pappardelle, toothsome buccatini and more are made with precision and prepared perfectly al dente. Fluffy gnocchi is served as a bed for rich duck confit with briny olives and orange segments for a balanced dish of ricocheting, complementary flavors. Deceivingly simple in its presentation, a pork and apples entree was texturally delightful: pork loin served with soft caramelized apples and tender-crisp celery.

The bar program holds its own against the creative fare. Indulge your curiosity with any of bar manager Jeffrey Moll’s inspired seasonal cocktails. Sip on the No. 37¾, a bourbon and ginger liqueur libation delivered with an apple-wood smoke cap roiling atop a blackberry garnish.

Don’t be selfish when your order arrives; the variety and creativity of Randolfi’s menu begs to be shared with friends and family. Then take your time; linger and enjoy the food, company and la bella vita in a space as intimate as Nonna’s kitchen.


-photo by Greg Rannells

Sneak Peak: Randolfi’s on The Loop

Friday, August 21st, 2015



Chef Mike Randolph is on the move again. As The Scoop reported in May, chef-owner of Público and Half & Half closed his popular Neapolitan pizzeria, The Good Pie, in June. He opens his new Italian concept Randolfi’s in its place at 6665 Delmar Blvd., Tuesday, Aug. 25.

While the roaring wood-fired pizza oven and imposing marble bar from Good Pie days remain staples of the space, they are now joined by red-checked tablecloths and Randolph family photos hanging on the walls for a more relaxed dining experienced. Taking a lesson from Público, Randolph has created a focused menu of southern Italian dishes that call back to his family’s roots. Look for six antipasti, six pasta dishes, four pizza offerings and four meat or fish dishes that utilize the wood oven still on view in the open kitchen. Portions are smaller; customers are meant to order multiple dishes and share with dining companions.

House-made pasta features prominently on the menu, from slurpable bucatini to hand-rolled gnocchi. Good Pie fans will welcome the return of three classic pizzas (marinara, Margherita and blanca) and a fourth option that will rotate more frequently.

Randolph’s chief barman Jeffery Moll has created a cocktail program focused on classic Italian cocktails like the Negroni and Americano, a collection of his greatest hits (including the Moll’s Cup No. 3) and new creations. Moll also developed three non-alcohol cocktails using house-made shrubs, syrups, herbs and more.

Randolfi’s will be open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. Here’s a look at what to expect when the door opens next week:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

Extra Sauce: A chat with Lidia Bastianich

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015



Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich has made a career preparing, exploring and educating others through Italian-American cuisine. Now she returns to St. Louis for Falling in Love … In Five Courses, an annual five-course dinner to benefit students at St. Louis Community College. Bastianich will oversee the dinner, which takes place this Saturday, Feb. 28 at Four Seasons Hotel, with help from area chefs Gianni Colucci of Cielo, Casey Shiller of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar and STLCC culinary students.

Here, Bastianich shares her thoughts on the St. Louis culinary scene, the importance of culinary education, and who she turns to when she needs a little help in the kitchen.

This event supports the students at St. Louis Community College. Why is this something you wanted to be involved in?
What appeals to me is the education of young people that don’t have the opportunity to make a jump to a four-year college right away. This is such a great stepping stone.

You’ll be speaking with some of these culinary students before the event. What lessons are most important for them to learn?
You have to leave the door open. Culinary school is not just hands-on training … It is the possibility of opening a business, a restaurant, a store. It is the possibility of becoming a culinary teacher, of being a journalist on food, of writing cookbooks … teaching children.

You’ve been to St. Louis many times over the years. What are some of your favorite things about our city?
I connect because of the deeply-rooted Italian immigrant history that it has, from The Hill to the different restaurants, bocce playing, Yogi Berra comes from there … There are a lot of Italian-isms, if you will … I had a great time at Rigazzi’s, Trattoria Marcella, Cunetto House of Pasta, Giovanni’s on the Hill, Charlie Gitto’s.

What are your thoughts on the St. Louis food scene?
I think that it’s a vibrant city as far as food. They enjoy their wine … they’re into food, the markets… I think it has joie de vivre.

People seem to be more into food now than ever before, not just dining out but cooking, too. To what do you attribute that?
Many things: the press, the writing on food, all the exposure: television, Internet, social media. Food is all over, and the understanding and importance of food for our health … And beyond that, the pleasure that food gives us. Food is a venue for nurturing somebody, for loving, for expressing a kind of affection. So it has become a social medium. I remember I had the first restaurant in ’71, it was “OK, a quick dinner and then let’s go to a show.” Now, dinner is the show.

What new projects are you working on?
My third children’s book just came out (Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidias Egg-citing Farm Adventure). … I’m working on a master cookbook that’s going to be out in the fall. It is a compilation of over 400 recipes, a glossary, traditions, instructions and all of that.

What are you cooking right now?
Soups. My 94-year-old mother lives with me. I make soups and freeze them so when I’m traveling she has her meals ready. … In this weather, it is all about soup and braised meats. Before I left, did a big pot of braised ribs. So there you have the ribs are falling off the bone, but also the sauce, and then I package it for Grandma and she has a meal.

You’re an authority on Italian-American cooking, but when you branch out, whom do you look to for advice?
I can call up Jacques (Pepin) and say “Hey, Jacques…” But when I kind of venture a bit out, certainly Rick Bayless for Mexico … Ming Tsai if I’m going to have Chinese problems, or Indian… Madhur Jaffrey is my friend also. So I’m covered.

Editor’s Note: Sauce is a sponsor of Falling in Love … In Five Courses.

Eat This: Il Bel Lago’s Fettuccine Alfredo

Sunday, December 7th, 2014


During winter’s onslaught, there’s nothing we crave more than a bowl of rich fettuccine Alfredo from Il Bel Lago. Twirl the toothsome noodles around your fork, coating them in a decadent sauce of cream, butter and Parmesan. It’s an old-school Italian-American classic that will warm you even in the face of another polar vortex.

11631 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, 314.994.1080, bellagostl.com

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The Weekend Project: Lasagna

Thursday, November 20th, 2014



Ready or not, here it comes… The holiday season is upon us, and there are a million-and-a-half things on your to-do list: a house to clean, gifts to purchase, decorations to dig out of storage, family to host for the big meal next week – and how are there already Christmas carols on the radio?!

Pause. Take a deep breath. Now is not the time to spiral into a frenzy of takeout or frozen meals. You need simple comfort food, and if it can be made in advance and feeds that crowd about to show up on your doorstep, all the better.

Homemade lasagna is the perfect solution – and we promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds. Even with an infant, three other children and two full-time jobs, we still found this dish easy to prepare. You may be tempted to substitute store-bought ingredients (we understand; we opted to use store-bought ricotta instead of making our own this time), but this meal is a much lighter, more elegant affair when you take the time to make as much as you can from scratch.




Prepare the hearty ragu on Saturday morning (omit the sausage and double up on the mushrooms for a delicious vegetarian option) and let it simmer slowly on the back burner while you continue your myriad of Thanksgiving preparations. On Sunday, enlist an assistant to help roll out the pasta. It only takes a few minutes, and the taste and texture of fresh pasta blows the boxed stuff out of the water.





For those who want immediate gratification, assemble and bake your molten, cheesy creation Sunday night, then dig in with your prep crew. If this meal is meant to fortify you during the long week ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna in plastic and hide it in the refrigerator up to two days. When your Thanksgiving guests arrive, just throw it in the oven and enjoy a relaxing, stress-free meal that will warm and invigorate even the weariest travelers.


The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the ricotta. Make the sauce.
Day 2: Make the pasta. Assemble and bake the lasagna.

The Grocery List*
1 gallon whole milk**
1¼ quarts heavy cream
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar
2 king oyster mushrooms
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 large basil leaves
5 eggs
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

*This list assumes you have olive oil, butter, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and flour. If not, you’ll need to purchase these things, too.
** Raw or low-temperature pasteurized milk is preferable, but ultra-pasteurized milk will work, too.

Courtesy of Blood & Sand’s David Rosenfeld
Makes 1 quart

1 gallon whole milk
1¼ quarts heavy cream
4 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar

Day 1: In a large pot, gently heat the milk and cream until it reaches exactly 188 degrees. Add the salt and vinegar and stir once to combine. Remove from heat.
• Use a strainer to skim the curds from the top of the liquid and place them in a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Continue to skim every 15 to 20 minutes as curds form, until the whey is clear. Discard the whey or reserve for another use.
• Let the curds drain in the cheesecloth until the ricotta reaches the desired consistency, up to 12 hours. Ricotta will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.



Sausage-mushroom Ragu
Makes 1 quart

2 king oyster mushrooms, diced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Day 1: In a large stock pot over high heat, saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until brown, 5 to 7 minutes, working in batches to avoid crowding. Remove the mushrooms from the pot and set aside.
• Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the sausage and brown about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and saute 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and continue to saute another 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are fragrant. Salt to taste, then return the mushrooms to the pot.
• Add the white wine and marsala and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and stock, stirring until the paste is incorporated. Add the thyme, basil, salt to taste and several grinds of pepper.
• Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Continue to gently simmer about 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the ragu from scorching. When the sauce is reduced by half, season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Ragu will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.





Lasagna Noodles
Makes 8 large sheets

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 eggs

Special equipment: pasta roller

Day 2: Scoop the flour onto a clean counter and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well. With a fork, stir the eggs to slowly incorporate the all flour until a dough forms. Knead the dough, adding flour to the surface when necessary, until the dough is firm, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
• Unwrap the dough and slice it into 4 even pieces. Press 1 piece flat and feed it through a pasta roller on setting No. 1. Repeat on the same setting, then roll it through twice on setting No. 2. Continue feeding the pasta sheet through roller twice on each setting through No. 5. Cut each sheet of pasta in half, sprinkle with flour and place on a large cutting board. Repeat the rolling technique with the remaining dough.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a large ice bath.
• Drape a sheet of pasta over the handle of a wooden spoon and dip it into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath, then let drain in colander. Rinse under cold water to remove any starch, then lay the blanched pasta sheet onto a clean kitchen towel. Repeat until all the pasta is blanched and rinsed.




6 to 8 servings

2 cups Ricotta (recipe above)
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
Olive oil, for greasing
1 quart Sausage-mushroom Ragu (recipe above)
8 large Lasagna Noodles (recipe above)
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
• In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and salt together until smooth. Set aside
• Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread about 1 cup ragu in a thin layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Repeat the layers 2 more times, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan.
• Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the top is browned. Lasagna will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.




-photos by Michelle Volansky

Eat This: Spiedini di Gamberi at Trattoria Marcella

Sunday, November 9th, 2014



A plate of pasta will always hit the spot at South City’s Trattoria Marcella, but its Spiedini di Gamberi holds the best qualities of Italian comfort food. A pillow of sauteed spinach is the bed for a soft, creamy risotto cake, seasoned with fennel and a hint of garlic, and surrounded by a handful of plump, tender Gulf shrimp. It all gets swaddled in a soothingly rich Marsala sauce that begs to be sopped up with chunks of crusty ciabatta hot out of the oven. After eating this hearty meal, you’ll be warmed to the bone and ready for a long fall hibernation, er, nap.


-photo by Carmen Troesser


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