The new Italian cooking from the Romagnoli's table
Lots of recipes using lots of garlic and tomato sauce you will not find in Margaret and Franco Romagnoli's latest book, The New Italian Cooking (Boston: Atlantic-Little Brown, $15).
You might, however, find such dishes as pork loin with orange sauce and ravioli with filberts. You might be surprised by some new ways to cook American turkey, and by ingredients like fresh ginger root or soy sauce.
"Just because ginger and soy sauce aren't traditional to Italian cooking doesn't mean they aren't being used in cooking in Italy," Margaret told me. "These ingredients are as common in the Italian markets as they are here."
'La cucina nova' is a flexible, creative style of cooking with quicker, easier, and more practical methods, and a different perspective on Italian techniques and ingredient combinations.
Some of the most interesting of the new ideas are those that save time and labor.
"We know now that we can get a good Bolognese sauce from the pressure cooker in one hour, an incredible time-saver for a sauce that used to take three hours of long slow cooking with plenty of stirring," said Margaret.
"We also like especially the flavor of certain things cooked in the pressure cooker. Take risotti, for example," she said. "It's fool- proof. The 'extra-long-grain rice' cooks in 14 minutes in a closed saucepan but only 5 minutes in a pressure cooker.
"There's a wonderful blending of flavors in the pressure cooker. You know there's lemon or saffron in with the rice. It seems to do something great along with saving time."
Saving money as well as time is obviously important on both sides of the Atlantic and the Romagnolis were very interested in the way people in Italy use turkey.
"In Italy it's not just confined to the roasting pan. They use it a lot and in different ways than we do.
"They even treat it differently in the market. It's wrapped and packaged the same as meat," she said. "We saw it labeled as 'turkey osso buco,' a name previously always used for veal shank, not for any other meat than veal.
"In many homes and restaurants, turkey meat is replacing veal in other recipes as well; in such dishes as the traditional saltimbocca, usually made with tender veal slices and prosciutto, seasoned with fresh sage, and cooked with butter."
Turkey, then, is not only fashionable and versatile, but less expensive than many cuts of meat, fish, or fowl.
"When you buy turkey for Italian recipes, look for fresh turkey," Margaret advises.
"Stay away from the self-basting varieties; they slice miserably before cooking; moreover when cooked the Italian way, the turkey stays moist, so any self-basting is redundant."
Slice particularly well when partially defrosted, and the carcass yields a good broth. Frozen cutlets are also a convenience for smaller recipes.
Another interesting adaptation of American foods using Italian cooking techniques is a dish the Romagnolis originated when they made dinner for friends on St. Patrick's Day.
"There is a traditional Italian dish for cabbage which is cooked whole with minced meat stuffed between the leaves. We made this using corned beef and poured over it one of our new Italian salad dressings with anchovy, avocados, and pickled onions. Served with small red boiled potatoes, it was a delicious meal."
Franco's Chili con Carne, Roman Style, is another interesting recipe that might have strained international relations in less permissive times. Made in the pressure cooker, the Romagnolis say it can compete with any chili they've tasted outside San Antonio, Texas.
While introducing many delightful creations along with many turkey dishes, the new cookbook also retains such all-time favorites of the Italian table as artichoke pie, calamari fritti, and panettone.
The Romagnolis were first introduced to American audiences via public television in a series of cooking programs and they have written two other cookbooks, The Romagnoli's Table and The Romagnoli's Meatless Cookbook.
Last year, while in the middle of writing this newest book, they opened their own restaurant, The Romagnoli's Table, in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Chef Leonardo Schieda, who has cooked in some of the best restaurants in Italy, came to Boston to cook for them. The Romagnolis' son, Marco, is the night chef.
The first of this year the couple opened another establishment in the marketplace, The Romagnoli's Pasta and Sauce Shop, featuring fresh pasta and their own sauces.
Plans are in the works for still another project, a cooking school that would take place in the restaurant's enormous kitchens.
There are about 10 turkey recipes in the new cookbook. Here are some you might like to try. Risotto with Turkey 1 large celery stalk with leaves, washed 1 large white onion, peeled 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 pound white meat of turkey (breast or wings) Giblets of 2 chickens 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups extra-long grain enriched rice 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, hot 1 pound fresh peas, or 1 10-ounce package frozen 4 ounces fresh mushrooms 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Mince finely celery and onion. Saute mince over medium heat in 4 tablespoons of butter until limp. Use a large saucepan with a good cover or a pressure cooker.
Cut turkey meat coarsely; trim off fat and gristle, chop chicken giblets, and add both meats to pan. When meats are well browned, add salt and rice. Stir and cook until rice crackles and liquid is mostly evaporated.
Add hot broth. If using a saucepan, bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and cook 25 minutes. If using a pressure pan, cover, bring pressure to 15 pounds, and cook 8 minutes. Lower pressure immediately.
While rice is cooking, cook peas in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain immediately.
Slice and then saute mushrooms in last of butter and olive oil until just tender.
The minute the rice is cooked, stir in peas, mushrooms, and mozzarella. Mix well. Place in a hot serving dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately. For 4. Pepper Casserole 8 large basil leaves 6 sprigs Italian parsley 1 garlic clove, peeled 5 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced 3 sweet peppers, red, green, or yellow 1 small zucchini 4 ounces mushrooms, cleaned 1 chicken bouillon cube 3 tablespoons wine vinegar 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste Fresh ground pepper to taste 2 potatoes, peeled
Mince herbs with garlic and put mixture in flameproof casserole along with olive oil and sliced onions. Saute over medium heat until the onions are limp.
Core the peppers and cut them into 1-inch square pieces. Slice the zucchini into thin rounds. Cut the mushrooms in half.
Add the vegetables to the onions. Break up the bouillon cube, adding it to the vegetables. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and stir well. Cover the pan with a tightly fitting cover, lower the heat, and cook 15 minutes.
Slice the potatoes in very thin rounds, and add them to the casserole at the 15-minute mark. Stir, cover, and cook another 15 minutes or until the peppers are cooked but still firm to the bite. Taste for seasonings, and adjust if necessary. Serve as a main dish. For 6.
This simple sauce is especially good with yellow or green fettucini, and is popular at the restaurant, as well as being one of the sauces sold in the Romagnoli's store in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Tomato and Basil Sauce 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 cups canned peeled plum tomatoes, put through a food mill 6 fresh basil leaves, or 3/4 to 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Melt butter in a saute or frying pan over medium heat. Add tomatoes. Break basil leaves into pan, and add salt.
When sauce boils, lower heat to simmer. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has boiled down a bit, the color darkened, and the sauce thickened enough to coat a spoon. Taste for seasonings, and adjust to please. For approximately 4 servings of pasta.