Stuffed Zucchini

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Many years ago I wrote the main food article of the food section for our local newspaper. My favorite articles to write were when I interviewed people who traveled the world to cook and eat.

One such woman I wrote about attended a cooking class with Lorenza dé Medici at her home, Badia a Coltibuono, an 11th Century monastery, estate, and winery, in Tuscany. (There is no longer a cooking school, just their wines and olive oils are sold from the website.)

If I remember correctly, she spent a quite a few days in the spacious kitchen learning Tuscan specialties, using ingredients purchased at the local market. What an experience.

In the evenings all of the attendees and the Signora enjoyed the prepared food and locally grown wine. And because of that experience, I was exposed to Lorenza dé Medici and her many cookbooks.

I’ve posted on one recipe by Lorenza dé Medici from her Antipasti cookbook – Crostini al Tonno – but this Stuffed Zucchini recipe is from The Villa Table, published in 1993.

This recipe was posted years ago, but I needed to re-do the photos!

Courgettes Stuffed with Ham
Zucchine Ripiene al Prosciutto

6 medium zucchini (I recommend only 3 medium)
3 eggs
5 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces cooked ham, chopped
Salt
Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Cut off and discard both ends of the zucchini. Using an apple corer, scoop out the pulp from the centers, leaving both ends intact, to make the hollow of the boat.

I also let the zucchini boats rest on paper towels to collect moisture.

In a bowl beat the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, butter, and chopped ham. Mix well.

Transfer the mixture to a small frying pan. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Stuff the zucchini with the mixture. Pour the oil and 2 tablespoons of water into an ovenproof dish and arrange the zucchini in it.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

I sprinkled the stuffed zucchini with chopped Italian parsley and a little flaked salt.

Enjoy as a side, or as a meal!

And personally, I loved the white pepper instead of black!

Tigelle

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I have fallen in love with a food show called “Somebody Feed Phil.” Or maybe I’ve fallen in love with Phil himself, cause he’s adorable. Previously known as the executive producer of the popular American show, “Somebody Loves Raymond,” he somehow created his own show going around the world experiencing food!

So, is he like Anthony Bourdain? Oh my goodness no. In fact, I’d call Phil, whose real name is Phil Rosenthal, a sweet, goofy, fun- and food-loving nut! And let me say this. I’ve never teared up so much watching a food show.

So in one show about Chicago, which he calls “the city that tries to kill you” because of all of the fabulous food there, like the wonderful Chicago pizza, he goes to Monteverde, an Italian restaurant co-owned by Chef Sarah Grueneberg. And it was on this show that I first heard of tigelle.

Tigelle, pronounced ti-gel-ay, are little yeasted round breads that look similar to English muffins in the U.S. They originate from the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, and can also be called crescente.

But it was what Chef Sarah did with the tigelle that got me wanting to investigate. She sliced one horizontally, added burrata, prosciutto butter, a thin slice of melon, and then prosciutto. Phil looked like he’d reached nirvana! Of course, all Phil has to do is look at a donut and his face really lights up!

Anthony Bourdain, god rest his soul, will always have a special place in my heart. But Phil Rosenthal, you are my hero!

The recipe I’m using is from the website called Great Italian Chefs. Tigelle recipes were not in my Italian cookbooks.

I spent a few days searching for a tigelliera, which I learned is the press with which to make these, and lo and behold, I found one on the website Taglia Pasta. If you want one check it out here.

The dough for these is a basic yeasted bread dough. And just fyi, if you use yeast regularly, buy it in bulk. I keep this bag, that was once a 1-pound bag, in the freezer and pull it out when I need it. Here’s a pound of yeast on Amazon for $7.80. Don’t buy the little packages! It would add up to about $70.00!

Tigelle

500g or 2 cups of 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
150g or 5 ounces lukewarm water
150g or 5 ounces lukewarm milk
25g or 1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5g or 1 teaspoon dried yeast
5g or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine the milk and water and stir in the yeast. Leave for 10 minutes to activate the yeast (I always sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the yeast first.)

Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the oil, then stir in the milk mixture with a spoon. Once it starts to come together, tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until you have a nice, smooth dough.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave somewhere warm to proof for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, knead for a minute, and cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then roll out to 1/2” thick. Use an 8cm cutter to cut the dough into discs. Re-roll trimmings and cut out more until all the dough is used, placing them all on a parchment paper-lined tray.

Let the dough proof for one more hour.

Heat the tigellieria over medium-high heat on a gas stove. Cook six at a time, for about 4 minutes on each side. Make sure to oil both sides of the press.

They should be puffed up and slightly browned.

It took a little time to get them to the proper color. Sometimes the dough squished a little, but that’s okay.

Like I mentioned, tigelle are just a basic bread dough, but once they cooked and sliced open, they are a vehicle for just about everything good that is Italian!

I put out prosciutto butter, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, melon slices, and some arugula.

I got the idea for the prosciutto butter from the show. I simply mixed a herbed garlic compound butter with prosciutto in the food processor. And wow is it good when it melts on hot bread!

Hopefully I’ll get the hang of using the tigelliera and do a better job next time. I saw someone in a video using small scissors to trim around each tigella and make them perfect rounds, but I like the rusticity of these.

Raclette Quick Bread

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For those of you who don’t know what a quick bread is, well, it’s just that – a quick bread! As opposed to slow bread, you could say, or a yeasted bread, which can take hours to prepare and bake.

A quick bread utilizes baking powder as leavening that lightens the bread as it bakes, as opposed to yeasted breads that utilize yeast.

Besides being quick, quick breads are extremely easy. You mix up ingredients much like you would muffins or pancakes, whether sweet or savory. You just have to respect the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Think about it. A cookie dough is different from a cake batter for a reason.

Today I decided to make a savory quick bread using some leftover raclette that I had frozen after Christmas, and a few other goodies I gathered together. If you decide to make this bread, you can completely change up the ingredients to make this bread your own.

This kind of bread is also referred to in France as a cake salé, a savory “cake” made in a loaf pan.

Raclette Quick Bread

2 ounces jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, slightly drained and chopped
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces milk
2 eggs
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt or ricotta
1 teaspoon salt
Leftover pancetta and fat
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
10 ounces grated raclette or other semi-firm cheese
4 ounces of chopped olives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pancetta and butter together in a skillet over medium heat. A little browning is good. Let everything cool, and remember to save the fat in the skillet to use in the recipe. I actually discovered diced pancetta at my grocery store!

To a large mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, yogurt and salt and whisk until smooth.

Add the pancetta and its fat, and the herbs. Stir until smooth. I used fresh parsley, rosemary, and oregano.

Using a spoon, gradually add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is almost combine with the wet ingredients.

Add the grated cheese and olives and fold them into the batter gently; do not over stir. And another discovery – pitted Castelvetrano olives! Thank you Amazon.

Divide the batter in between two greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans. Place the pans in the oven for 45 minutes.

To make sure they are cooked through, use a cake tester or long toothpick to check them. No doughy substance should be sticking to the tester. If there is, the breads need to be cooked for maybe five minutes longer. An alternative is to lower your oven to 325 degrees to help the breads cook in the middle. Sometimes it works to turn off the oven and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.

There should be a little rise along the middle of the bread, and it should also be firm to the touch.

Let the breads rest in the pans for about 30 minutes, and then remove them to cool completely.

Serve these breads as part of a buffet, or for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

They’re best warm or at room temperature. When the bread is warm it’s luscious and cheesy and flavorful.

Can you imagine serving this bread with a bowl of tomato soup?!

This bread would be great with smoked cheese, bits of chorizo, and chopped cilantro. Or, roasted red bell peppers, Gorgonzola, and basil. Get creative!

For a similar bread, click on Olive Cake for another delicious cake salé, pictured below.

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms

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A while back when I was choosing ingredients to make a Mediterranean-inspired ivory lentil salad, I discovered a fun product – canned artichoke bottoms.

Now, I’m just as particular about canned foods as much as the next guy, but these are high quality; there’s no tinny taste. There is a tang to them, however, but still easier than collecting bottoms from actual artichokes.

I discovered these bottoms on Amazon, and have tried a few different brands. All have been good.

The first time I looked at these, my mind went to a stuffed artichoke bottom, similar to a stuffed mushroom – filled with flavorful Italian sausage, baked ricotta and Parmesan.

Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
Makes 14 appetizers

2 cans artichoke bottoms, 14 bottoms total
16 ounces Italian sausage
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
Cayenne pepper flakes, to taste
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature, drained if necessary
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and white pepper to taste
Finely grated Parmesan or other hard grating cheese, about 4 ounces
Chopped parsley, to garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Drain, rinse, and dry the artichoke bottoms on paper towels.

Cook the Italian sausage until no pink remains, making sure it’s well crumbled. Add the bread crumbs and cayenne pepper flakes. Let the sausage cool.

You will have extra sausage mixture. Save it for meatballs!

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta cheese with the egg yolks along with salt and white pepper and whisk until smooth.

Fold in the parsley. Taste for seasoning.

Place the bottoms on a jelly roll pan, curved side up. Slice a little of the base if they don’t sit upright properly.

Using a teaspoon, place a little of the cooked sausage in each bottom, diving evenly.

Top with the ricotta mixture And press down slightly with the spoon.


Bake for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle on the Parmesan. Raise the oven temperature To 400 degrees and continue baking for 10 more minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

In retrospect, I think the filling should have been all three components mixed together. They didn’t “layer” as well as I’d hoped.

And, the artichoke bottoms should probably dry in paper towels overnight. They were still a little wet.

These would be good with some crab or lobster as well, also mixed in with the ricotta mixture.

I might roast these next, just with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little cayenne pepper flakes.

They would be good on a charcuterie and cheese platter as well, marinated first in good olive oil, lemon, and chile peppers.

So I have a feeling I’ll be using them fairly often, for different purposes.

Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.

When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

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happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!

Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!

Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Pipérade

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My mother could cook just about anything. I never realized she was so talented until I was older, of course. And it wasn’t always about what she learned from cookbooks, there were also the recipes she just knew instinctively. It’s sort of like why French women are all talented cooks. Why is that?!!

For example, I remember once as a kid asking my mother if she’d make me peach dumplings. She made them, no recipe, and they were incredible. I’d have to look up a recipe for peach dumplings, and I’ve been cooking for 40+ years.

Thirty-five years ago my husband and I took my mother out to a French restaurant when she was visiting us in Houston, Texas. It didn’t go so well, mostly because of the flying cockroach. She ordered Oeufs à la Neige for dessert and disliked it. “I’ll make it for you and you’ll see what it’s supposed to taste like.”

The next day at our house, she made Oeufs à la Neige without a recipe, and it was better than the restaurant’s. When I made it for this blog, I used a recipe.

The other day I was thinking about breakfasts growing up. Let me just say that there was no cold cereal at my house. Maybe when I was 11 I discovered my friends ate Cocoa Krispies and Cocoa Puffs at their houses, and I was a bit jealous. But I also knew that my breakfasts were wonderful. Even a humble bowl of oatmeal was served with butter and cream.

My mother was a whiz at eggs. She had chickens, so we had beautiful eggs – blue, green, beige, and white eggs. Even duck eggs.

Occasionally my mother would make an omelet-like pipérade. I grew up never knowing it was a real recipe, but it is, originating from the Basque corner of France (thanks, Google.) Mom was from the Northeastern corner of France, so she must have discovered this recipe in a cookbook along the way.

What makes this egg dish somewhat different from your basic omelet choices are the vegetables and ham, and no cheese. Here I will try to duplicate her recipe.

Pipérade

6 eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 ounces butter
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 ripe Roma-style tomatoes, chopped, seeded, or equivalent
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces Prosciutto, chiffonaded
Chopped parsley
Chopped basil

Beat the eggs and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the green pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. It should be soft and not browned.

Stir in the shallots and garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes, preventing any browning.

Add the tomatoes, adjust the heat if necessary, and cook off any liquid in the pan.

Add the piment and stir into the tomato mixture. Set the pan aside.

In a separate skillet, I used my cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat, and when hot, gently “sear” the ham. Remove from the skillet onto paper towels.

Reheat the same skillet over medium-low heat; you shouldn’t have to add more oil. Add the eggs, and gently move the eggs around and away from the sides with a spatula as if you’re making scrambled eggs.

Remove from the heat when the eggs are still soft, and spread the tomato mixture over the top. Then add the ham, parsley, and basil.

It was really tempting to not also serve crème fraiche with the pipérade.

But I added more piment and black pepper.

In reality there’s nothing exceptional about these eggs, but the dish is fabulous for breakfast, lunch, or brunch.

Just look at these soft eggs and all of the lovely vegetables and herbs.

Easy Peasy Pasta

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There are some specific criteria to being a successful home cook. The most important thing, in my opinion, is to have food in the house! That may not sound very profound, but no one, not even Gordon Ramsay, can prepare food without basics in the pantry and refrigerator. It’s just impossible.

It’s not only necessary to have ingredients available, it’s so much less expensive to cook with those ingredients, instead of going out for restaurant food or contacting a delivery service.

Some staples I must have in my pantry include pasta, grains, and legumes.

Canned products are essential, especially canned tomatoes. I also love canned beans because I feel they’re a quality ingredient, and I always have canned tuna on hand.

I like to keep milk products like canned coconut milk, evaporated milk, and goat milk on hand as well.

Besides canned products, it’s necessary to have staples such as oils and vinegars, or at least one of each! Plus sweeteners and unique pastes.

Refrigerated items that are important to me are sauces and condiments. If I want to make any kind of dish with Asian ingredients, like a quick noodle soup, I can simply reach for hoisin sauce, smoked sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, and Gochujang. But if you only want mayo and mustard, that’s fine too!

The refrigerator is also where I keep my nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Butter, eggs, and cheese are definite refrigerator staples for me, as are demi glaces. But cream, yogurt, and even ricotta can help in a pinch, whether you’re cooking an Italian dish such as a pasta, or an Indian curry.

The freezer comes in handy, also, for storing frozen vegetables and stock.

Which brings me to this pasta dish. It’s a perfect example of preparing a quick and easy meal with just a few basic ingredients. It’s a dish that can be made on a weeknight after work, or after a vacation when you’re too tired to put much effort in to whipping up a meal, and have no fresh produce.

Easy Peasy Pasta
printable recipe below

12-16 ounces pasta, a pretty shape or color
1 – 15 ounce carton whole-milk ricotta, at room temperature
12 ounce package of frozen peas
Parmesan, optional

Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, scoop the ricotta cheese into a large, heatproof bowl; set aside.

Gently heat the frozen peas in the microwave. I place a little folded paper towel in the bottom of the bowl for excess liquid, but drain them if there’s a significant amount of water.

Drain the pasta when it’s cooked, then add it hot to the bowl with the ricotta. Stir gently.

If necessary, thin with a little milk or cream, or even a little butter. (All staples!) Or, use a little pasta water.

Add the peas and incorporate. Taste for salt and pepper.

Place the pasta in individual bowls or a serving bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.

I used a few toasted pine nuts on top of the pasta for some texture. And that’s it! (Also another staple of mine.)

This recipes shows how good a very simple and basic cooking can be, using what you have in your kitchen.

Now, for a heartier meal, you can add some garbanzo beans from a can… from your pantry! I love the heartiness of pasta and beans in the same dish.

Also, rotisserie chicken or even smoked salmon would be wonderful added to the pasta. Or, canned tuna.

Cooking truly isn’t difficult, and it definitely doesn’t have to be time consuming.

Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with basics. That way, you’re naturally creative in the kitchen, not wasteful, and can cook in a pinch!

 

Antipasti Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad recipe isn’t remarkable on its own, being that there are hundreds of pasta salad recipes, but this is remarkably good!

Inspired by my favorite antipasti platters, I used Italian dry salami, Prosciutto, Provolone, Fontina, plus olives and pepperoni. Then I added pasta and fresh vegetables to create an easy pasta salad that is definitely extraordinary.

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My vinaigrette is classic, made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic.

Feel free to make this salad your own. It’s one of those “use what you like” recipes. Change up the meats and cheeses, add sun-dried tomatoes or marinated artichokes, chives or shallots, or your favorite dressing. It will all be delicious!

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Antipasti – Inspired Pasta Salad

16 ounces pasta of choice, I used rotini
Olive oil
Salt
10 ounces dry Italian salami
8 ounces Provolone
8 ounces Fontina
6 ounces Prosciutto
12 ounce jar peperoncini
6 ounces Greek Kalamata olives
6 ounces pimiento-stuffed Spanish green olives
12 ounces spinach
Fresh cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Vinaigrette of choice

Begin by cooking the dry pasta based on the package directions. Drain well, then return to the cooking pot. Stir in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt; set aside to cool.

Cut up the salami and cheeses in a sort of julliene shape. Place in a bowl and set aside. Chifonnade slices of Prosciutto, or alternatively, slice in to bits. Set aside.

Place the drained pepperoncini and olives in the jar of a food processor and pulse until in pieces. Set aside.

Chifonnade fresh spinach leaves and place on a large platter or pasta bowl. Add the cooled pasta on top.

If you don’t want a “composed” salad, all of the ingredients can alternatively be tossed in a large bowl.

Add the salami and cheese mixture, plus the Prosciutto.

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Add some of the pepperoncini-olive mixture to the center of the pasta salad.

Sprinkle generously with coarsely-ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes.

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If desired, add some cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves.

Serve at room temperature with the vinaigrette.

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note: I would normally have added a little vinaigrette to the cooked pasta, but I’m always wary about guests not liking vinegar. But all components of this salad could first be tossed with some vinaigrette, including the spinach, if the salad will be served immediately. If your guests also don’t like pepperoncini and olives, the mixture could be served on the side.

Eataly, NYC

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One of the goals during my recent New York City trip was to visit Eataly. I’ve been intrigued by the whole Eataly concept since it was built. It claims to be the largest Italian market place in the world, and at 50,000 square feet, I believe it must be.

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The famous names behind Eataly include Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son Joe Bastianich. (I’m not sure about Mario any longer…)

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Eataly sells everything Italian. There is a bakery, a cheese shop, a fish department, an area for charcuterie, a pasta department, and so forth. Intermingled among the shops are various restaurants – some set up for full dining, others cafés, take-out stops, and areas for tastings.

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Oh, and a fresh pasta shop of course.

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The toughest apart about Eataly for us was figuring out how to get in to Eataly. We had the right address, but never found an obvious entrance. So we walked through a shop that sells everything Nutella – the Nutella Bar.

So yes, I had to have a Nutella crepe and an espresso. It was still morning, after all!

Eventually we discovered a customer information booth of sorts, and were handed a map, which helped immensely. We walked around, for the sole purpose of picking up some items I can’t get where I live, but my husband suggested I get them online. That’s how much he dislikes shopping of any kind.

I was especially intrigued by this pasta, which I can only describe as embossed pendants. I will be buying these online!

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Eventually we managed to get hungry and chose Manzo for lunch.

We began with toasted bread, prosciutto and stracciatella. Stracciatella, if you’re not aware, (I wasn’t), is the inside of burrata. So it was like sweet, lumpy cream drizzled with a little olive oil. And their prosciutto was the meatiest, smokiest prosciutto we’ve ever experienced. At that point we should have asked for the bill.

But no, we both do love to eat, and so far we were definitely excited and impressed.

My husband ordered pappardelle with wild boar sauce, and because I’ve never eaten them, I ordered pasta with ramps.

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My pasta was incredible, but because the ramps were blended in a “sauce” that included asparagus, I couldn’t really tell what they were like on their own. Nonetheless, a fabulous dish. And our lunch was made more perfect with wines chosen by our attentive and knowledgeable waitress.

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Overall, Eataly was a wonderful experience, even though I left with no groceries. But you can indeed go to Eataly online and shop. There is also a calendar of events like tastings and classes if you happen to live in NYC or are visiting.

One note – While at Eataly, I had actually planned on eating lunch at Birreria, a glassed-in restaurant on the rooftop of Eataly, but it happened to be closed for renovation. It’s now re-opened and named Sabbia, serving “coastal fare.” I would still like to go there, if nothing else for the views. But I bet the food is top-notch, after our Manzo experience!