Book excerpt

Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood

Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends

Frank Pellegrino

St. Martin's Press

Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood
SoupsChicken StockBrodo di Pollo 
Makes 4 to 5 quarts 
Growing up, Monday night was always soup night. I can guarantee that in nine out of every ten apartments in East Harlem we were all eating soup.Chicken stock can be kept on hand for a multitude of cooking uses from deglazing pans to adding to sauces. Soup stock (see variation below) is an enriched, thickened alternative and is used exclusively as a base for soups.1 (3-pound) chicken, rinsed 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped, or 1 medium onion, chopped 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 3 celery stalks, peeled and cut into chunks 4 garlic cloves, peeled 5 sprigs fresh Italian parsley 4 canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed with the juice 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepperPut the chicken in a 6-quart pot with enough water to cover. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, skimming off the foam, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve for another use. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and discard the vegetables. Leave the stock to cool. Refrigerate until the fat congeals on top. Skim the fat from the stock. Store, covered, in 1- to 2-cup portions for convenient use. The stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or tightly sealed and frozen for up to 6 months. 
Soup Stock Variation: For a thicker, richer soup stock, reserve 2 cups of the cooked vegetables from the chicken stock. Puree in a food processor or blender and return the pureed vegetables to the stock. The stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or tightly sealed and frozen for up to 6 months.Beef StockBrodo di Manzo 
Makes approximately 2 quarts 
The roasted meat bones used in this stock create a rich, deep essence that adds an extra layer of flavor to dishes like Simple Beef Stew (page 22).2 pounds beef or veal shinbones, cracked 1 large beef or veal knucklebone 1 pound lean beef or veal meat, bottom or top round 2 (15-ounce) cans imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed 2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and chopped 2 celery stalks, peeled and cut into chunks 1 large onion, chopped 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns Salt to tastePreheat the oven to 400°F.On a rimmed sheet, roast the bones and meat for 20 minutes until they are lightly browned. Drain off the rendered fat and set the bones and meat aside.Put the tomatoes, leeks, celery, onion, carrot, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a large stockpot with 4 quarts cold water and bring to a boil; add salt. Add the browned bones and meat. Return to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 31/2 hours, skimming off the scum as the broth cooks. Remove from the heat and let rest for 30 minutes.Line a colander with cheesecloth or a double layer of paper towels. Drain the stock into a bowl and discard the bones and vegetables. Leave the stock to cool. Refrigerate until the fat congeals on top. Skim the fat from the stock. Store, covered, in 1- to 2-cup portions for convenient use. The stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or tightly sealed and frozen for up to 6 months.Pasta with LentilsPasta con LenticchieServes 4 to 6 
Pasta with lentils is a dish we grew up with. The older we got, the more we appreciated the simplicity of this dish. Many Italians serve this soup on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. It is also considered a Lenten dish, hearty and satisfying during the days of fasting.¼ cup olive oil, plus additional for drizzling 2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and diced 2 celery stalks, diced 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices 2 garlic cloves, peeled 2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained 3 cups Chicken Stock (page 2) or canned chicken broth 3 cups water 1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed with the juice Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 pound small pasta (ditalini or tubetini) or spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces, cooked al dente Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheeseHeat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the lentils. Add the broth, water, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and serve with grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. 
Variation: If you prefer, you can substitute 2 cups peeled diced potatoes or 1 cup cooked rice for the pasta. Add the potatoes at the same time you add the carrots, or add the rice at the end and heat thoroughly.Wedding SoupMinestra MaritataServes 6 
This recipe was given to me by my friend Robert Milano. He and his family were all born and raised in East Harlem. His grandmother Antoinette and my grandmother Paolina both came from Piaggine, a small paesa south of Naples. They came to America in 1911 on the same ship. They remained friends throughout their lives and their cooking was almost identical. Consequently, if I were to eat at Robert's house or Robert were to eat at mine, we would each think we were eating at our grandmother's house. Robert is such a good cook, I hope one day he opens his own restaurant.1 head of escarole, washed, core removed 1 head of chicory, washed, core removed 1 head of savoy cabbage, cleaned, cored, and cut into eighths 2 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained ¼ cup olive oil 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled ¼ pound pancetta, chopped 1/2 pound hot or sweet sausage, out of the casings 1 (28-ounce) can imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed Salt and pepper to taste Pinch of dried oregano ¼ pound dried hot or sweet sausage, peeled and chopped Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheeseBring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the escarole, return to a boil, and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Remove the escarole with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Boil the chicory in the same pot of water until wilted, about 1 minute, and remove it with a slotted spoon. Boil the cabbage until wilted, about 2 minutes, and remove. Reserve 5 cups of the cooking water.Meanwhile, puree 1 can of the cannellini beans with the juices. Set aside.Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the pancetta and saute for 1 minute. Add the sausage meat and saute until fullycooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the pureed cannellini beans, bring to a rapid simmer, and add the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables, the can of whole beans with their juice, the dried sausage, and the reserved water and return to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with grated cheese.Meatballs and Escarole SoupPolpette e Zuppa di ScarolaServes 4 to 6 
You can substitute spinach, chicory, or savoy cabbage for the escarole.1/2 pound ground beef, ¼ pound ground veal, and ¼ ground pork, combined 1 large egg, beaten ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs 8 cups Soup Stock (page 2) or canned chicken broth 1 bunch of escarole, cored and choppedIn a large bowl, combine the ground meats, egg, cheese, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Form the mixture into meatballs the size of the end of your thumb. In a large pot bring the stock to a boil. Add the meatballs and return to a boil. Add the escarole and salt and pepper. Stir to mix. Partially cover the pot and cook over medium heat just below a boil until the escarole is wilted and the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with grated cheese. 
Variation: For a different but authentic Italian taste, mix 1 egg with 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and add it at the end of the cooking. Cook for 1 minute until the egg mixture forms "ribbons" in the broth.Chicken Soup with Pasta or RiceZuppa di Pollo con Pasta o RisoServes 4 
This simple chicken soup uses Soup Stock (page 2) as its base and is enhanced with a few handfuls of pasta or rice and cooked chicken. Perfect to make if you have leftover roast chicken.8 cups Soup Stock (page 2) 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded 1 cup cooked small pasta such as orzo, ditalini, or acini de pepe, or white rice Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheeseBring the stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the chicken and pasta or rice. Let simmer until heated through, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Serve garnished with grated cheese.Escarole and BeansScarola e Fagioli 
Serves 6 to 8 
The marriage of two great tastes and textures makes this one of my family's favorite soups. It definitely qualifies as Italian comfort food.1/2 cup olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced 4 cups cooked cannellini beans 1 cup reserved bean broth 8 cups Chicken Stock (page 2), or canned chicken broth 2 large bunches of escarole, cooked and chopped (see Cooking Leafy Greens, page 151) Salt and pepper to taste Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheeseHeat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes until golden brown.Stir in the beans. Add the stock, escarole, and salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until hot, adding additional stock if you prefer a thinner soup.Serve garnished with a sprinkle of grated cheese.COOKING DRIED BEANSBefore cooking, dried beans must be presoaked in ten times as much water as beans, for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably 8.Drain the beans and place in a large saucepan with cold water (or unsalted broth) to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender, adding liquid as necessary so that the fully cooked beans are in a nice rich broth. Do not add salt or any acidic liquid or vegetables to uncooked beans or the beans will be tough. To be safe, add all seasonings, including salt, after the beans have softened.If you do not have time to prepare dried beans, canned beans, particularly cannellini beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas, are of high quality and can be used as substitutes.MinestroneServes 6 to 8 
Minestrone takes advantage of late summer's harvest as well as whatever vegetables are on hand in the refrigerator. It is both simple and satisfying.1/2 cup olive oil 1 cup chopped onions 1 cup chopped leeks, white part only ¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes 2 cups diced carrots 2 cups diced celery 1 cup diced zucchini 1 cup fresh fava beans, boiled and peeled, or 1 cup frozen fava beans 1 cup fresh or frozen peas 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed with the juice 4 cups Chicken Stock (page 2) or canned chicken broth Salt and pepper to taste 1 to 2 cups cooked cannellini or kidney beans (see Cooking Dried Beans, page 10) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil ¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheeseHeat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions, leeks, parsley, and thyme. Lower the heat and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions begin to brown. Add the remaining vegetables, except for the tomatoes, 1 at a time, sauteing each for about 3 minutes. When all the vegetables are sautéed, stir in the tomatoes, stock, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, until the soup is quite thick.Add enough cooked beans to thicken the soup, mashing some against the side of the stockpot with the back of a spoon as you stir them in. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Serve with grated cheese.Millie Pellegrino's Beef SoupMinestra di ManzoServes 6 
My cousin Aunt Millie and her husband, Joseph, were born and raised in East Harlem. Aunt Millie had four children, who are my close cousins, and we have spent many great times together. Aunt Millie was a great cook, and her youngest son, Bobby, now owns a wonderful restaurant in Deerfield Beach, Florida, called Pellegrino's.Not only is this a wonderful soup, the cooked meat from this recipe also makes an excellent salad for two: shred the soup meat and place in a serving bowl with I sliced red onion. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.2 beef shanks or short ribs, approximately 2 pounds total 3 celery stalks, peeled and diced 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1 (15-ounce) can imported Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed with the juice 1 large onion, chopped Salt and pepper to taste ¼ pound orzo or acini de pepe, uncooked Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheeseTrim the outer membrane from the beef shanks and discard. Wash the shanks in cold water. Place the shanks, celery, carrots, tomatoes, chopped onion, and salt and pepper in a stockpot. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle boil and cook, partially covered, for 11/2 hours until the meat is very tender and you can easily pierce it with a fork. Remove the meat and strain the broth, reserving the vegetables and meat. Take the meat off the bone and shred. Set aside. Bring the reserved broth to a boil and add the pasta. Cook a few minutes until the pasta is al dente. Return the vegetables and beef to the pot and heat through. Serve with grated cheese.Simple Pasta e FagioliServes 4 
This is one of those dishes I think of as soul-warming. The combination of beans, garlic, and pasta will cure whatever ails you.1/2 pound ditalini pasta 2 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, undrained ¼ cup olive oil 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese Extra virgin olive oilCook the ditalini in a pot of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, puree 1 can of the cannellini beans. Set aside. Heat the oil in a stockpot. Add the garlic and saute until lightly golden. Add the pureed beans. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, add the second can of beans, and let simmer until the pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and cooking water to the beans. Stir. Serve in soup bowls. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with grated cheese. 
Variation: To make the soup with a tomato base, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add one 15-ounce can of imported Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand with the juice. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the pureed beans and the additional can of beans with reserved juice. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the mixture and follow as directed above.Copyright © 2004 by Frank Pellegrino. Foreword copyright © 2004 by Mimi Sheraton. All rights reserved.. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. Frank Pellegrino is the owner and impresario of the restaurant Rao's. He also distributes a hugely successful national brand of pasta sauces and other products under the Rao's name (sold at upscale groceries and big retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond). And he's a sometime actor who has a recurring role on "The Sopranos" (look for him more frequently in the new 2004 season).