07/31/13 Creamy Polenta with Meat Sauce

"Rompere le uova nel paniere." (Breaking the eggs in the basket. Ruining someone's plans.) Welcome to another recipe edition from Angela's Organic Oregano Farm!

This week's Italian recipes:
  -Bruschetta with Beans and Prosciutto
  -Olive-Oil Fried Eggs With Smoked Mozzarella
  -Creamy Polenta with Meat Sauce

"Buon giorno!" How is your summer season coming along? Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to people. For those few months you're not expected to be who everyone thinks you are. Summer just opens the door and lets you free. Enjoy it...

Thanks again for reading!

Yours Truly,              
Angela Reina       

 Recipe: Bruschetta with Beans and Prosciutto

Bruschetta with Beans and Prosciutto
Bruschetta con Fagioli e Prosciutto


1 and 1/4 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans
1/2 pound pancetta, diced
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced fennel
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup red wine
One 14 and 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Eight 1/2-inch thick slices sourdough or any Italian country-style bread
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
8 thin slices prosciutto
Extra virgin olive oil


Put the beans in a bowl or pot and add enough cold water to cover.

Set aside to soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

Change the water once or twice.

Drain the beans, transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot, and add water to cover by an inch or two.

Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, skim off any foam that rises to the surface, and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the beans are nearly tender. Check the water level during cooking and replenish it, if necessary.

Drain the beans and cool at room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate until needed. The cooked beans will keep for up to 2 days.

In a large pot, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat for about 5-6 minutes, or until brown and the fat is rendered.

Add the onion, celery, fennel, salt, cayenne, and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes, or until the onion softens.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, then add the wine.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a brisk simmer, and cook until reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes and their juices.

Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the stock, vinegar, bay leaf, and beans.

Bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add more stock if necessary to keep the beans well moistened.

Stir in the butter until incorporated.

Remove the beans from the heat and let them cool in the liquid until warm or room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together the basil and sage.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop some beans from the pot and put on top of each toast (drain completely when lifting the beans from the pot.

Garnish each bruschetta with 1 slice of prosciutto and a sprinkling of the herbs.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve. Makes 4 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Olive-Oil Fried Eggs With Smoked Mozzarella

Olive-Oil Fried Eggs With Smoked Mozzarella
Uova Fritte con Olio d'Oliva e Mozzarella Affumicata


8 large eggs
1 and 1/4 cups coarsely grated smoked mozzarella (6 ounces)
1 large garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided


Preheat broiler.

Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt.

Stir together with red-pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.

Break eggs into a bowl.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a flameproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

Pour in eggs and cook, undisturbed, until whites begin to set, then cook, lifting up edge of cooked whites with a spatula to let as much raw egg white as possible flow underneath, 2 minutes (top and yolks will still be very loose).

Remove skillet from heat and sprinkle cheese over eggs.

Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbling and yolks are barely set, 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve drizzled with garlic olive oil. Makes 4 servings.

That's it!

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 Recipe: Creamy Polenta with Meat Sauce

Creamy Polenta with Meat Sauce
Polenta Cremosa con Sugo di Carne


For the Meat Sauce:
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound dried Porcini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 pound Spanish onions, cut into 1-inch dice
1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
Two 14-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, juice reserved
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seed
1 bay leaf

For the Polenta:
1 cup yellow polenta or cornmeal
2 cups chicken stock or water
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Torn fresh basil
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Prepare the Meat Sauce:
Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and pour wine over them.

Set aside to soak and hydrate for about 20-30 minutes.

Drain, reserving both the mushrooms and the wine.

Strain the wine through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned and much of the fat is rendered.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the sausage from the pan and set aside.

Add the pork and beef to the fat in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until browned.

Season with salt and pepper.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the meat from the pan and add it to the sausage.

Leave the fat in the pan.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add the reserved wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer briskly for about 3-4 minutes or until reduced by half.

Return the meat to the pan, season again with salt and pepper, and add the stock, tomatoes, basil, oregano, fennel, bay leaf, and reserved mushrooms.

Simmer gently for approximately 1 hour, or until the meat is tender.

Skim any fat that rises to the top of the pan during cooking.

Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Prepare the Polenta:
Place the stock and the cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Slowly pour the polenta into the hot liquid, whisking briskly to prevent clumping.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.

Add the cheese and butter, stirring gently until incorporated.

Spoon a mound of soft polenta on each of 4 or 6 shallow bowls or plates.

Ladle the ragu over the polenta and garnish with basil, parsley, and grated Parmigiano cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

That's it!

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 Only In Italy!

"Only In Italy" is a daily news column that translates & reports on funny but true news items from legitimate Italian news resources in Italy. Each story is slapped with our wild, often ironic, and sometimes rather opinionated comments. And now, for your reading pleasure, a sample of today's edition:

Mafia Fugitive Found Hiding In Wonderland Behind 'Magic Mirror'

Naples - April 01, 2012 - Antonio Cardillo, a 34-year old alleged crime boss affiliated with the Lo Russo clan of the Camorra in Naples, was arrested by Carabinieri police in a raid Saturday after they discovered a booby trap reminiscent of a classic spy novel.

Cardillo had been at large for 18 months but had apparently been living at home with his family in Marano di Napoli on the outskirts of the city.

The extravagant home called Villa Excelsia was surrounded by a large veranda and lush garden and was protected by high walls and an elaborate security system.

Acting on warrants sought by anti-mafia prosecutors, police raided the house early Saturday morning and found Cardillo's wife and two children asleep.

When police searched the master bedroom, where Cardillo's wife has been sleeping, they saw signs that the large bed had been used on both sides.

As they continued their search of the house they found a tiny remote control device that did not appear to belong to a television, computer or any other appliance.

But when they entered the walk-in wardrobe beside the master bedroom and activated the remote control, a full-length mirror that seemed to be attached to the wall moved aside.

The mirror was operated by a series of large hydraulic pistons and tubes activated by the remote control device and Cardillo was found sitting on a small red chair in the small room behind it.

Cardillo's bunker is the latest in a number of bizarre and often elaborate hideouts used by mafia bosses to evade police.

In August 2009 police arrested mafia boss Giuseppe Bastone who was found hiding in an underground bunker equipped with a skateboard he planned to use through a 200 yard secret tunnel to escape capture.

Bastone hid for a year in a 10ft by 10ft space beneath a house that was accessible through a hidden trapdoor.

Giuseppe Setola, a hit man for the Naples Camorra, evaded arrest during a police raid on his home north of Naples in January 2009 when he fled down a tunnel linked to sewers beneath his hideout.

He was captured two days later while seeking treatment for a wrist injury and is now serving a life sentence for ordering or carrying out up to 18 murders.

Naples is an odd place. I think we've mentioned this to you before. The land is filled with pizzas, magic homes, raging scooters, nursery-rhyme characters, and red hot mind-altering peppers. Why, one would almost wonder whether this land makes any sense at all?

But for all its oddities, Naples wonderland is home to an actual tear-filled bay of life lessons and advice that we can all learn from. So take another moment to dive into the world of Naples. And be careful what you eat there.

1) Be adaptable.

You poor tourist. One minute you're walking down an innocent alleyway, and the next you're clutching your travel bag with might, dodging traffic and avoiding eye contact with street vendors with psychic powers. Wonderland? "Mamma mia", this place is more like the Twilight Zone with bad Napolitano music.

Sometimes it can feel like you're the only sane person in a world gone loony. Acknowledge the insanity of it all, but push onward anyway. And even if some of your struggles never make sense, at least they'll make for a good story for your pompous-ass Italian friends.

2) Always smile.

You will first meet a friendly neighborhood Napolitano down the street from your hotel and discover the lively character can vanish and reappear at will sometimes leaving his grin and cheap after-shave fragrance behind (like Chesire Cat).

The Napolitano greets every challenge with self-control and a bewildered smile, and he becomes the only individual in Naples whom you could call a "friend."
A friend in Naples? "Porca l'oca", that's something to grin about.

It takes two to...

Gianfranco Tweedledum and Giancarlo Tweedledee are as alike as two Napolitano brothers can be. They dress alike, talk incoherently alike, even reason alike. But that doesn't stop the pair of them going to war against each other over a broken mobile phone...or a cute Napolitana in tight pants who suffers from delusions of adequacy.

Granted, we all have personal battles we need to fight at times. But there's something to be said for witnessing or assisting them. Sometimes it's better to head back to the hotel and see what there is to eat in the mini-bar than risk getting whisked away by irritable relatives.

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