Monday, August 07, 2006


The Italian Grocery on De La Guerra is my savior.

I no longer have to make pizzocheri with delicious, though rather flimsy and inadequate, garlic noodles from Trader Joe's. Now I have an outlet at which to purchase real pizzocheri, which is what thick, hearty Italian buckwheat pasta is called. For those who have not been blessed with this gift from the Vatellina, traditional pizzocheri are cooked with boiled potatoes and cabbage, then smothered in a garlic-butter-sage sauce and choked to death with a variety of cheeses. As I am unable to find Toma and Bitto in America, I've been using a blend of melty mozzarella, fontina, asiago and parmesan.

Pizzocheri, specialty of the Vatellina aka a meal to last a week if you get snowed-in in your small Alpine village

Learning how to make this dish was one of my Italian cooking goals I set when I came back from my summer in Italy. Mission accomplished. I also set out to learn my favorite dessert, Tiramisu, which I think I do a decent job of, especially with extra Kaluha.

Along the way, I've completely abandoned store bought pasta sauces. I can't stand them anymore, and I really don't know how I could ever stand them in the first place. They're never hearty; even when there are tomato chunks in them, its not the same. My father always made a rich, red Sicilian sauce from scratch for me when I was a kid. He put hours into it, which is why my sauces are still not my father's caliber. I make lighter, more Roman-style sauces. And I make a mean vodka sauce, which is creamier than one might expect.

I always marveled at how my father rarely used a recipe for sauces, but the more I make them, I see why he didn't need them. I've figured out how to do an alfredo sauce sans recipe, which I really thought would be the hardest sauce I could ever make. For sauces, a recipe is too limiting. They're really meant to be more like guidelines--especially in an Italian kitchen.

So, pizzocheri and tiramisu are two of my completed Italian cooking goals. Now I just have to set aside the time to make gnocchi from scratch.

It is, however, unfortunate that no where in the country can I get cheap grappa. It's like 5-10 euro a bottle in Italy! It's $40 a bottle here! Even at the Italian Grocery! I guess my next goal is to learn how to put my winemaking skills to good use and figure out how to distill me some Italian rocket fuel.

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