Recipe: Gnudi (ricotta dumplings) with broccoli rabe pesto


 •Broccoli rabe pesto
 •1 cup blanched broccoli rabe leaves
 •3-4 broccoli rabe florets per serving
 •1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
 •1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
 •1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 •A pinch pepperoncino
 •Finishing salt to taste
 •1 cup Italian ricotta (sheeps milk)
 •1 cup Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta (cows milk)
 •2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pecorino
 •Pinch salt
 •Pinch black pepper
 •Pinch nutmeg
 •Semolina flour, enough to fill a sealtight plastic container
 •Garlic chips
 •Garlic cloves
 •Cold milk
 •Canola oil for frying

For the broccoli rabe pesto, remove broccoli rabe leaves from their branches, reserving the florets. Blanch the leaves in boiling water, quickly, immediately placing them into a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. Blanch the florets, same method, and reserve separately. By blanching, you will retain their beautiful, natural green color in your final product. Dry the leaves once they are cooled. Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Shake the pan to ensure even browning. When they are fragrant and browned, remove from heat and cool. Keep a close eye as they burn easily.
Roast the garlic by heating an oven to 300 degrees F. Place unsalted butter on a double thickness of foil and smash it to make a base for the garlic. Top with garlic heads and sprinkle with kosher salt. Fold over the sides of the foil to make a package and roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the garlic is soft. While it is still warm, scrape the softened garlic through a tamis or food mill, leaving behind the skins. Add the pine nuts to a food processor (you can also use a mortar and pestle). Pulse it to make a thick paste. Add in the garlic and continue to pulse. Add some of the rabe leaves, and pulse, adding in extra virgin olive oil in a light stream. Add more of the leaves, continuing to pulse with oil, and more of the leaves, until you have added them all and you have a thick, creamy pesto. Finish with the pepperoncino and salt to taste. Reserve.

To make the gnudi, combine all ingredients except the semolina flour in a Kitchenaid mixer. Blend until smooth. Scrape this mixture into a pastry bag. Pour the semolina flour in a thick layer into the plastic container. Pipe each gnudi dumpling into the flour, making even rows to best utilize space. Each should be about the general size of your thumb, but round, about 1 ½ tablespoons each. Once you have all the rows completed, cover the layer with more semolina flour. Repeat until the entire container is filled with layers of gnudi, tucked into the flour. Let sit for 2 days to allow a shell to form around the cheese and hold its shape. When ready, remove each dumpling from the flour. Very, very gently, toss the dumpling between your two hands to shake the flour from it. Place into a bowl, reserve until cooking. Fill a pot of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. When the water has reached the correct rolling boil, add the gnudi and cook. They are ready more quickly than ravioli — as soon as they bob to the surface, they are done and remove.

For the garlic chips, slice the garlic chips as thinly as possible on a mandoline. Place the slices in a small saucepan and cover with cold milk. Bring the milk to a boil, then drain the slices in a strainer, discarding milk, then rinse them under cold water. Return the slices to a pan and repeat the process three times, using fresh milk each time. Pat them dry on paper towels. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 300 degrees F. Add the garlic slices to the hot oil and fry for 12-15 minutes, or until the bubbles around the chips have subsided and they are a light golden brown. Drain the chips on paper towels. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

To finish: Warm the broccoli rabe florets gently in a small saucepan extra virgin olive oil, season with pepperoncino and salt. Then warm the pesto gently. Add the gnudi, toss to coat with the pesto. Serve five gnudi per person. Plate with florets mixed in. Finish with garlic chips and grated cheese.

Sweet Italian Sausage

The fennel-spiked sausage that turns up in such favorite Italian-American preparations as pizza, meatball sandwiches, custardy casseroles, and savory pies has so captured the heart of American cooking that it can be found in supermarkets and deli cases from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Northwest and everywhere in between. Not only is it one of the tastiest and most popular sausages, but it is also one of the easiest to make at home because it doesn't require a casing. In fact, most recipes call for taking it out of its casing. If you want to serve the sausage as links, stuff it into hog casing. The recipe yields a larger amount than the other recipes in the book because this sausage is so versatile that I like to have some on hand in the freezer.
Makes 2 pounds
1 3/4 pounds ground pork
1/4 pound salt pork, fat part only, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or scant 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or scant 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste, if needed

Place all the ingredients except the salt in a large bowl, and knead with your hands until thoroughly blended. Cook and taste a small sample, then add the salt if needed. Leave in bulk and shape as directed in individual recipes or stuff into hog casing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to blend. Saute or grill, or cook as directed in individual recipes. (The uncooked sausage will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 week.)

A Stickup on Arthur Avenue. Where? On Arthur Avenue?

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is known for its Italian restaurants, its cappuccino cafes and its old-school Italian-American population. It is also known as one of the safer streets in the borough, a reputation that made a bold jewelry store robbery there on Wednesday all the more surprising.

Just before 2 p.m., the police said, two robbers entered Spinelli & Son Jewelers, at 2310 Arthur Avenue, near Crescent Avenue. One of them waved a pistol and told Anthony Spinelli to open the safe. Mr. Spinelli apparently kept his licensed pistol in the safe, and wound up chasing the robbers out of the store as they were joined by a third waiting outside, according to the police.

Mr. Spinelli shot the man outside in the leg, the police said. As of last night, that man was in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Because the unnamed man was being treated, he had not yet been charged. The two other robbers escaped in a car; it is unclear whether they got away with any merchandise.

Mr. Spinelli was not charged.

Some local residents who saw the robbery muttered that the very fact that it had happened at all was a sign of a softening of a neighborhood once considered untouchable, perhaps because of its mob reputation. “In the old days, this never would have happened — on Arthur Avenue, are you kidding me?” Al Monetti, 62, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said. “In the old days, Spinelli wouldn’t have needed no gun. The whole neighborhood would have tackled them. It wasn’t a mob thing, it was a family thing.”

He said that it had been many years since this type of robbery had happened on the avenue. “Back then, a guy stole from the grocery store and before he got three stores away a bunch of guys tackled him,” he said.

He stared at the Spinelli sign — “18K Gold From Italy” — and said, “We’ve never been hit since then.”

Joe Binder, who is 100 but still works every day tending a nearby parking lot for Mario’s restaurant, said the neighborhood “stood up for itself more in the old days.”

“Today, everyone is slacking and minding their own business,” he said. “Years ago, the street was well protected. You had guys playing cards in social clubs all night, and if they saw anyone they didn’t recognize, they’d ask him, ‘What are you doing here?’ ”

Joe Migliucci, who owns Mario’s restaurant, now in its 92nd year, said, “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening here.”

“Criminals always felt like they won’t get away with anything here because everyone watches out for one another,” he said.

As far as mob activity, Mr. Migliucci said that he only knew what his father, Mario, told him about their restaurant missing out on being featured in the film “The Godfather.”

After Mario’s was mentioned in the book “The Godfather,” producers of the movie approached Mario Migliucci about filming a restaurant scene in his place. He declined.

“When they told my father it was going to be a shooting scene, he said no,” Joe Migliucci recounted. “He didn’t want that stigma.”

Sal Catania, who co-owns the pizza place across the street from the jewelry store, said, “This neighborhood was always safe — in the 1977 blackout, we were the only section that wasn’t looted. Fordham Road was destroyed, but not here.”

Spaghettini with Sweet Italian Sausage and Spinach

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 pound sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage (link variety), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped

1 medium onion, peeled, chopped

2 cans (14 ounces each) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup water

8 to 12 ounces spaghettini or angel hair pasta (whole wheat or regular)

1 bag (10 ounces) fresh spinach, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or light cream or heavy whipping cream

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage slices and cook 5 minutes, stirring, until they brown.

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the onion and cook 3 minutes or until it is lightly browned.

Add the chicken broth and water; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir the spinach into the pasta, cover and cook 3-5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the spinach is wilted. Stir in the cream and cook 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened and it coats the pasta.

Season with crushed red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Divide into individual bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.