Ciao'd while watching the NFL Draft


Orrechiette, or "little ears," pasta is ideal for cradling the small pieces of pancetta along with the peas. Well-loved by the Pugliese (including me), the pasta delivers a delightful chew that plays nicely with the soft peas and crunchy pancetta. Asparagus delivers a nice herbal flavor that balances the sweet peas and salty pancetta. In short, this dish is a win-win. 

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Serves 4

1 pound orecchiette pasta
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 pound finely diced pancetta
3 to 4 asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup) 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the peas. 

Add the pasta along with the reserved cooking water and the cheese. Season with the pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately, accompanied with more Parmesan cheese.

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Ciao'd with the AC on full blast.


Two classic summer flavors, zucchini and tomato, pair together in this light, vibrant, quick-cooking sauce. Marcella Hazan suggests, "The taste comes through even more explicitly if you can obtain vine-ripened, fresh, firm tomatoes." And she shares another secret: "An important component of the light, bright flavor is the way the garlic is handled. It is sliced very thin and aside from a brief, preliminary contact with hot oil, it is simmered in the juices of the tomato so that what emerges of its aroma is the sweetness rather than the pungency."  While Marcella calls for scooping away the tomato seeds, I left most of them intact as I like the flavor the seeds impart.

Suggested pasta: Spaghetti or spaghettini

Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta,
making 4 large or 6 small servings

4 to 6 medium zucchini, about 1 pound, trimmed
3 to 4 garlic cloves (enough to yield 2 tablespoons sliced garlic), peeled and sliced very, very thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh ripe, firm tomatoes (about 4 whole), peeled and seeds scooped away*, chopped rather coarse OR drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped rather coarse
Freshly ground black pepper
A dozen basil leaves, cut into thin shreds

Cut the zucchini into fine julienne strips.

Put the garlic and olive oil in a skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook, stirring two or three times, just until the garlic becomes colored a very pale blond.

Add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or slightly longer if the tomato is watery.

Add the zucchini, salt, black pepper, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning the ingredients over from time to time. The zucchini should be quite firm - al dente - but not raw. 

Cook and drain the pasta and toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, mixing into it the basil shreds. Serve promptly. Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan, Harper Collins, 1997.

*How to peel and seed a tomato: Core the tomato. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomato into the boiling water (you can add several tomatoes at a time). Remove the tomato when the skin begins to peel, 15 to 30 seconds, and put in a blow of ice water to cool. The skin will slip off easily. Cut the tomato in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds. 


Ciao'd as Rafael Nadal won his 10th French Open. Allé CHAMP10N!

Aglio e olio, garlic and oil, is an Italian mother sauce that forms the foundation for a host of other sauces, many of which include vegetables. Marcella Hazan's rendition highlights the vegetable of the moment, cauliflower. Paired with anchovies that imbue the sauce with depth of flavor, fruity green olive oil and parsley for herbaceous freshness, and a lilting dash of red pepper, this sauce proves that simple ingredients can sing. 

Serve 4 to 6

One 1 1/2-pound head cauliflower
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
6 flat anchovy fillets, chopped or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-pound package penne or other macaroni
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Strip the cauliflower of all its leaves except for a few of the very tender inner ones. Rinse it in cold water, and cut it in two.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, then put in the cauliflower. Cook until tender, but compact - about 25 to 30 minutes. Test it with a fork to know when it is done. Drain and set aside.  

 Put the oil, garlic, and chopped anchovies or anchovy paste into a medium-size sauté pan. Turn on the heat to medium, and sauté until the garlic becomes colored a golden brown. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon, mashing the anchovies with it. 

Put in the boiled cauliflower, and break it up quickly with a fork, crumbling it into pieces no bigger than a peanut. Turn it thoroughly in the oil, mashing part of it to a pulp.

Add the red pepper and a liberal amount of salt. Turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently. Then turn off the heat.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, add a liberal amount of salt, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, put in the pasta. When cooked al dente, tender but firm to the bite, drain it well and transfer it to a warm serving bowl. 

Ver briefly reheat the cauliflower, and pour all the contents of the pan over the pasta. Toss thoroughly. Add the chopped parsley. Toss again, and serve at once. Recipe from More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Knopf, 1978.

NOTE: This type of sauce is meant to be served without grated cheese, and that is how Marcella preferred it. But as Marcella said, "One may do as one pleases, and choose to have either pecorino or Parmesan cheese, depending upon whether one wants the sauce more or less sharp."


Ciao'd with handfuls of white cheddar popcorn.

Friday is my day to write an essay for the blog but for the last few Fridays, I have found myself at a loss for words. Perhaps it's all the noise reverberating out there and around us. How can I get a word in edgewise? Perhaps it's the time of year, a new season and therefore, a reset for my thoughts. The winter birds are flying away and the spring birds, golden finches among them, are alighting on our feeders. I like to think that the cold weather birds have pecked my negative thoughts to carry with them as they head to points north. As for the spring birds, I hope they bring sunny optimism.

My kitchen has been a respite of late, more than usual. I am a slave to television news and talk radio. Neither is serving me well these days. I need the simple tasks of the kitchen. Chopping and dicing onions and carrots. Stirring and mixing breadcrumbs, basil, and parsley. Washing dishes and wiping counters. These actions draw a baseline of calm. 

When I cook, my brain (and ire) rests and my senses sing. The aroma of fresh garlic and basil. The song of sauteeing onions. The loveliness of glowing lemons in a white bowl. The push of the knead and the pull of shaping pizza dough. The taste, oh, the taste of so many miraculous things! Fresh-picked lettuce, grassy, green artichokes, the first asparagus. And sweet, red, ripe strawberries! 

The earth gives in equal measure. It does not judge if we're flying on the right or on the left. It does not care if we're the 1% or the 99%. It bestows its bounty on any level of cook and invites, "Do what you will with me." And anything we do is just fine.

This week, I planted my garden with warm weather deliciousness, including Swiss chard. This recipe is a harbinger of what's to come. I think you'll enjoy its simple preparation and fresh, uncomplicated flavor. 



Succulent chicken thighs (yes, you can use chicken breasts, if you wish), Swiss chard, and tubetti pasta cook together in one pan (easy cleanup!) for a light and bright springtime meal. If you can't find tubetti (I use De Cecco), substitute orzo or Israeli couscous.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves (or 3 small cloves), finely chopped
1 cup tubetti pasta or other small pasta such as orzo
1 bunch Swiss chard, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine basil and thyme in a small bowl, crumbling between your fingers to release the flavor. Add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with half the spice mixture.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Stir in the garlic and pasta and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the Swiss chard, lemon zest, and remaining spice mixture; cook, stirring, until the chard just begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan along with any accumulated juice from the plate. Pour in the broth and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve, passing Parmesan at the table. 


Ciao'd while watching my version of March Madness: Tennis at Indian Wells. 



The sweetness of the shrimp marries deliciously with the herbal pesto and zucchini in this freshly flavored dish. It’s pretty, too! Traditionally, Parmesan cheese does not gild seafood dishes but, what the heck, I like it. 

Serves 4

1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 oz. bucatini or linguine pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup prepared pesto (or more to taste)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, chives, and shrimp; set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to package directions. Drain, but don’t rinse, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is almost crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp, red pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the pesto. 

Add the pasta to the pesto mixture and toss to combine. Use the reserved water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Serve immediately, passing the Parmesan cheese at the table.


Ciao'd while trying not to eat my son's Valentine's Day chocolate.



I like to serve this sprightly pasta dish with its bright, sunny flavor when the day is rainy or snowy or grey. It’s a pick-me-up in the most delicious way. Tortellini can be had in many flavors. Choose your favorite.

Serves 4

1 pound (16 ounces) fresh or frozen tortellini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup minced fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for passing at the table

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions.

As the tortellini cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and basil and stir to mix. Drain the tortellini and add to the butter mixture along with the lemon juice. Toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the Parmesan.