Here are three must-try recipes from Lynne Rossetto Kasper.
Note: From “The Italian Country Table,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. “Amatriciana is probably the most famous pasta of central Italy,” writes Kasper in the book. “Amatriciana began in the mountains between Rome and Abruzzo, around the town of Amatrice. This recipe is the best I’ve tasted.” Her wine suggestion? “A big red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Masciarelli,” she writes. [That's Kasper, above, in her St. Paul kitchen, in a 2008 Star Tribune file photo].
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 oz. pancetta (8 thin slices), finely chopped
• 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, divided
• 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-in. dice, divided
• Scant 1/8 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
• Scant 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti
• 6 quarts salted water
• 3/4 to 1 c. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Lift about half the tomatoes from can, poking each with your finger to drain the seeds and juice back into the can, and add to the pan, along with half the onions and the red pepper and black pepper. Increase heat to high and saute, stirring often, until onions are golden and tomatoes are thickened and taste very rich, about 5 minutes.
Stir in rest of tomatoes with their juices, the remaining onions, and the reserved pancetta. Adjust heat so sauce simmers gently. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Turn off heat and cover pan while you cook the pasta.
Cook pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until tender yet firm to the bite. Drain in a colander.
Return pasta to pot and toss with sauce over medium-low heat. Turn pasta into a heated bowl and serve hot, passing the cheese separately.
Modena Rice Pudding
Note: From “The Splendid Table: Recipes From Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food.” “This pudding is the dessert served after Sunday dinner in farmhouses on the Po River plain,” writes Kasper in the book. “It is pulled from the cold pantry for special guests, and is especially favored around Easter time.” [That's Kasper, above, in a 2001 Star Tribune file photo].
• 3 1/2 c. milk
• 1 c. (7 oz.) superfino Arborio or Roma rice
• 1 1/4 c. sugar
• 1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 5 eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
• 3/4 c. (4 oz.) high-quality candied citron, finely diced, or 3/4 c. blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
To prepare rice: In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan over high heat, combine milk and rice. Bring to a gentle bubble. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and cook at a very slow bubble for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally, to check for sticking. When rice is tender but still a little resistant to the bite (it will be a little soupy), stir in sugar. Turn it into a bowl and allow it to cool.
To prepare torta: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with the 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Stir eggs, lemon zest and citron (or almonds) into cooled rice. Turn mixture into prepared pan and bake until a knife inserted 2 inches from the edge of the pan comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.
To serve: To serve at room temperature, cool pudding on a wire rack to room temperature, then unmold. Refrigerate if you will be holding it for longer than 2 hours. Slice into narrow wedges. Serve warm by reheating the pudding in its mold at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, then release the sides of the pan and set the torta on a second plate. The pudding can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap the dish and store in the refrigerator until 1 hour before serving. It is equally good served warm from the oven or chilled.
Lynne’s Retro Garlic Bread
Note: From “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper,” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. “You never outgrow your love of garlic bread,” writes Kasper in the book. “In high school this recipe separated me from the home-ec Bisquick types. Garlic bread was a big deal then — it signaled your sophistication to your friends. Then it went into the closet. Garlic bread became ‘so ’70s,’ and therefore nothing you would ever admit to eating. Well, I am here to tell you that garlic bread is back.” [That's Kasper, above, in her St. Paul kitchen, in a 2014 Star Tribune file photo].
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1/4 c. water
• 5 large garlic cloves, minced
• 1 generous tsp. dried basil
• 1 generous tsp. dried oregano
• 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 large crusty baguette
• 1 tightly packed c. shredded Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (5 to 6 oz.), divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, butter, 1/4 cup water, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. When the butter melts, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, to soften the garlic (take care not to brown it). Once the garlic is soft, uncover the pan and simmer until you hear the mixture sizzling. This is the cue that the water has cooked off. Pull the pan off the heat immediately.
Split the baguette in half horizontally. Divide garlic blend between the 2 halves. Sprinkle each with half of the cheese. Set them on a foil-covered baking sheet, cheese-side up, and bake until the cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, slice and serve hot.