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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


2010 James Beard Award Winner: Single Subject

Pasta Sfoglia
By Ron and Colleen Suhanosky with Susan Simon 

Ron Suhanosky writes that he and his wife and partner, Colleen, once worked for a short while in Reggio Emilia, Italy, at Ristorante Picci, owned by the Picci family, who produced their own balsamic vinegar. “It was at the restaurant that we discovered the Italian habit of macerating strawberries in balsamic vinegar,” he says. “The slight acidity of the vinegar serves not only to emphasize the sweetness of the strawberries, but also to accelerate the release of their juices.” When they opened their first Sfoglia restaurant on Nantucket, the seasonal harvest from local farmers’ strawberry fields brought back those memories, and inspired this recipe, which has become one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. It should only be made with ripe and in-season strawberries, Suhanosky advises.

Spaghetti with Strawberries,
 Tomato and Balsamic

1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1 1/2 cups (approximately 1 pint) fresh strawberries, large berries cut in half, small ones left whole
2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
2 cups peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound good-quality spaghetti
Pasta water (see below)

1. Add the grape seed oil and strawberries to a 10-inch skillet. Turn on the heat to medium. Cook the strawberries until tender—the sides will become transparent.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water (see below) to a boil.

3. Stir the vinegar into the strawberries and reduce by half. The sauce will appear syrupy. Use your hands to squeeze and break up the tomatoes directly into the skillet. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Lower the heat to a simmer.

4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Use a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs to remove the spaghetti from the pot and place them directly into the skillet. Stir to coat the spaghetti with the sauce.

5. Serve immediately.

Suhanosky credits his grandmother for the inspiration behind this recipe. “When I was a kid, my grandmother used to make cavatelli and serve them with broccoli rabe, garlic, and red pepper flakes,” he writes. “In my interpretation of her recipe, adding walnut pesto counters the bitterness of the broccoli rabe and introduces some texture. I like to boil the broccoli rabe before I sauté it in order to take out some of the bitter taste and to tenderize it.”

Ricotta Cavatelli with Broccoli Rabe
and Walnut Pesto

1 recipe Ricotta Cavatelli (see below)
1 cup walnuts
3/4 pound (1 bunch) broccoli rabe
1 1/2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup Pasta Water (see below)
Grated pecorino Romano for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet with sides. Toast until golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water (see “Pasta Water” below) to a boil. Separate the leaves from the stalks of the broccoli rabe. Peel away the tough skin from the stalks. Add the leaves and stalks to the boiling water and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain.

3. Bring another large pot of salted water (see “Pasta Water” below) to a boil for the cavatelli.

4. Add the walnuts, ½ clove garlic, ½ cup of the extra virgin olive oil, and the salt to the jar of a blender and process until just before finely blended. You may want to see a few pieces of walnut.

5. Coarsely chop the broccoli rabe. Thinly slice the remaining garlic clove. Add the garlic and the remaining 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a 10-inch skillet. Turn the heat to high. When you see the edges of the garlic turn golden, about 1 minute, add the broccoli rabe and ½ cup pasta water, and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Use a rubber spatula to remove the walnut pesto from the blender jar. Drizzle the pesto over the broccoli rabe.

6. Add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Cook for 1 more minute. Use a wire-mesh skimmer to remove the cavatelli from the pot and place them directly into the skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine.

7. Serve immediately with a garnish of grated pecorino Romano.

Pasta Water [back to top]

5 quarts water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 pounds fresh or 1 pound dry pasta from your selected recipe

1. Seasoning the water with salt is an important part of my “making pasta” philosophy. I believe that each component of a dish that’s cooked separately needs to be seasoned separately. When the pasta begins to cook in salted water and releases its starch, it produces yet another ingredient, pasta water. There are many recipes in this book where I ask for the addition of this starchy water to the sauce. Adding it ensures a good marriage between the pasta and the sauce. When cooked pasta is added to the sauce, it will absorb the extra pasta water, not the sauce. The sauce will then coat the pasta.

Note: I think that it’s important to use a wire-mesh skimmer or tongs to remove pasta from the pot. When wet pasta is added directly into the sauce, both components join to become the one dish.

Ricotta Cavatelli
Makes about 2 pounds

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rice flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 pound whole milk ricotta
2 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Manual cavatelli maker

1. Spread the all-purpose flour and ¾ cup rice flour on a clean, dry work surface. Place the ricotta, eggs, salt, and pepper on top of the flour. Use your hands to gather the ingredients together and gently knead the dough into a 10 by 3-inch log. Let rest for 2 minutes.

2. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with rice flour. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces. Press each piece into an oval shape. Use a floured rolling pin to make uniformly shaped ¼-inch-thick ovals. Cut each oval into 1-inch-wide strips. Pile the strips one on top of the other with a sprinkling of rice flour between the layers.

3. Screw the cavatelli maker onto the edge of a cutting board or countertop. Feed the strips through the cavatelli maker. Store the cavatelli on a rice flour–covered baking sheet until ready for use.

Storage: The cavatelli can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. To prepare them for the freezer, place them, dusted with rice flour, in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, place them one on top of the other in an airtight container. To thaw for cooking, place the cavatelli in a single layer on a baking sheet in the refrigerator for not more than 1 hour before cooking. Cook according to the recipe directions.

Copyright 2007 Seasonal Chef