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We are here in New York for a long weekend. Last night we got lucky and were able to get a table at Mario Batali’s Babbo. WOW! What a fantastic experience! I would recommend any restaurateur to go for a visit and take lots of notes!

Here’s my short scorecard:

– Service: 9.9
– Food: 9.5
– Ambiance: 10
– Value: 10
Service:
Service was extremely good. I am taking .1 off because they did not clean the bread crumbs from the table after the appetizer. it’s, of course, a very minor point. From when you step in the door until you get out everything is run perfectly. Perfectly meaning that any time you are about to need something a waiter is there they leave you alone otherwise.

Food:
We shared one appetizer: grilled octopus. Tender but with a bit of a crunch…wow. Hellai got the “spaghettini with Lobster” and I got the “Pappardelle with Wild Boar”. She loved the spaghettini. The wild boar sauce was very good…but I would have let it cook for a few extra mins (that’s the .5 points off the 10). The dishes were very fresh and the quantity not stingy…there was 1/2 pound of lobster and I had lots of wild boar. That’s the way should be done!

Ambiance:
Not too much to say here…it’s a great place. It is a fine dining experience, yet it is fairly relaxed and informal. Plus…you can’t beat a place that has Bono dining there (yes, he was seating at the table across from ours) and Mario Batali walking around.

Value:
The final bill was around 110USD. We had one appetizer, two main entrees, 1/2 bottle of wine (two quartini) and the “amari sampling” (15usd). OK…it’s not a “cheap” place, but it is definitely worth it.

Bottom line… if you are headed to NYC make sure that you make a reservation. You need to book more than a month in advance. they do leave a few tables to walkin, but if you decide to go down this path you need to go either very early or very late.

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Tonight it was a hot and very summer evening!  I wanted to have something light, fresh and more importantly quick to cook.  I headed to the QFC close to my condo to grab some groceries for the next few days and the food section looked pretty good.  They had some “wild catch Dover sole” (we call it “sogliola” in Italian) and I thought to cook it with a few clams and fresh tomatoes.  I had what I was looking for:  Sogliola con vongole.

In Italy you would usually expect the sole to be cooked on the grill with a little drizzled olive oil.  Not bad.  Tonight I felt experimenting a little I wanted to use clams to give it a little extra kick.  It may just me, but especially with white fish you do need a little “some some” to give a little more character to the fish.

Ingredient list is very short:

  • one sole fillet
  • a few clams (I used four tonight)
  • one fresh tomato
  • garlic (one clove)
  • salt and pepper
  • some white wine
  • italian parsley
  • olive oil (extra virgin preferred)

This is a super quick dish and it really takes 10mins to cook the all thing!

  1. in a pan put couple of table spoons of olive oil and the garlic.  For one sole I used about half of clove. Of course you are free to add more or less.  Medium heat should do it.
  2. after the garlic starts cooking add the clams.  Give the clams about a minute to warm up, but make sure that as soon as they start opening you add the sole and the chopped freshed tomatoes.  This is what my pan was looking like at this point.
  3. At this point the sole is cooking. The clams should be open and they have released the sea water.  This is a good time to add a splash of white wine, the salt, the pepper (don’t be shy!) and a little parsley.  Make sure you turn the sole once.  pix here.
  4. After about 3-4 mins the sole is going to be cooked and the clams are cooked as well.  The dish is ready!
  5. Optional step:  after you remove the sole, clams and mussells from the pan you will still have some good stuff in there.  You could deglaze it using another splash of white wine.  Pour the outcome on the sole. 
  6. Your dish is ready!

Let me know what you think… 

[wrote this almost a year ago…we just came back from walla walla and thought of reposting it here]

Hellai and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Walla Walla.  Now the first reaction that many have is: “why would you go to Walla Walla?”

Couple of reasons:

– Molly, one of Hellai’s friends, recently moved there.  She leaves with her boyfriend Joe.  We were due for a visit 🙂

– We have wanted to go there to checkout the local wineries for sometime.

Walla Walla is a little more than 4 hours drive from Seattle.   The drive was very nice.  We drove up to Snoqualmie pass and through the East Washington desert before Yakima.   We arrived in Walla Walla around 9pm on Friday and we checked in our hotel, the “Marcus Whitman”

On Saturday we met up with Molly and Joe, went to the Farmers’ Market, got some coffee and got going with the wine tasting!

We started with a visit at Seven Hiils, located in downtown next to our hotel.  We tasted:

  • 2004 Pinot Gris, Oregon
  • 2004 Riesling, Columbia Valley
    • Joe’s quote: “This is the best Riesling in the valley”… you gotta believe him, he knows what he talking about!
  • 2002 Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley

I actually liked the Merlot, but we ended up buying a bottle of the Ciel du Cheval…which of course Hellai liked better!  As a side note, Seven Hills does not charge a tasting fee. 

Right after Seven Hills we headed out of town with destination PepperBridge Vineyards.  During the drive Joe gave us a great tour of the local vineyard and a very good overview of the different charasteristics they have.

Pepperbridge is what you would expect when you think about a winery: rolling fields of vineyars with the big “old looking” house right in the middle.  Very pitoresque overall.  Pepperbridge does charge a 8$ tasting fee to try the house specialties: merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  We tried:

  • 2002 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

I really liked the 2001 Cab…rich and on the spicy side.  The only issue is that it was 50+ dollars…so we passed.

 After all these tasting we needed some food.  We drove by one of the many Taco Tracks in town and got some food (I got the Walla Walla Burrito = there are lots of onions).  With our food bags we drove to Dunham Cellars, the winery where Joe works as winemaker. Along with the food we got going with another round of tasting

  • Dunham Cellars Three Legged Red
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Turtina
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon VII
  • 2002 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • 2004 Dunham Cellars “Shirley Mays Chardonnay

 I really liked their Three Legged Red…

At this point we were ready to go rest for a bit, before moving on to the evening program.

We started off the evening with…surprise…surprise…a wine tasting party!!!  The party was in an appartment in downtown WallaWalla.  The host was great, with good food and a great wine selection.  The highlight was that we were actually able to finally try a Cayuse!  It was pretty good…but honestly speaking I was expecting more given the “mystic” around this label.

After the pre-dinner party we headed for dinner.  The restaurant “Whoopemup” is in the remote “Waitsburg“.  Of course we had never heard of it, but the restaurant was really really good.  They serve Southern comfort food and the portion are definitely on the generous side.  Bottom line…if you go to Walla Walla you gotta try this place.  Make sure that you get a reservation!

With our bellies pretty full we call it the night.

On Sunday we made a visit to a couple of other wineries.  The first stop was at the Waterbrook tasting room in downtown.  We tried couple of wines only:

  • 2004 Viognier
  • 2004 Merlot

I had never had a Viognier before and they sold me on the fact that it was only on sale at the tasting room (would you believe them?).  So, I ended up buying a bottle of it.

After some local fruit&vegetables shopping we hit the road.  But, before leaving WallaWalla we made the final winery stop:  Woodward Canyon.   We went all out and tasted 7 different wines.  The Artist Series was definitely a very good one (we tried 9 and 10 if my memory serves me right)!  Woodward has definitely the best deal…no tasting fee and a great selection!

It was time to head home.  We really had a great time.  Special thanks to our hosts Mollie and Joe, they are so good that I think they should get into the B&B business with optional Tours.  Joe has some great stories about the wineries and especially the people…

Is WallaWalla going to be the next Napa?  I don’t know…it is fairly isolated from the main cities and flying there is still very difficult.  But the potential is there…70 wineries and counting.

A few weeks ago we had couple of friends for dinner (Noushine and Olivier).  It was a nice sunny evening so I was looking forward to cooking a summery dish. After looking at whether I had some “special” pasta around I ended up with a package of “orecchiette” in my hands.  Perfect…I was going to cook it with fresh seafood (in Italian “frutti di mare” usually stands mostly for shellfish).

I headed off to the fish market and got some good fresh ingrendients.  The list is very simple:

  • 1 pound of orecchiette
  • 1 pound of clams
  • half pound of mussells
  • 8-10 prawns
  • half pound of shrimp meat 
  • half pound of the small scallops
  • half pound of fresh calamari (frozen steaks work too)
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • just a bit of fresh chilly pepper
  • half-cup white wine
  • one third of cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 3 cloves of garlic 
  • pepper, salt

Looking at the ingredients couple of things come to mind (1) this is not a tomato-based sauce (2) I use the fresh tomatoes to give it a touch of freshness and texture (3) DO NOT USE CREAM  – PLEASE (unless you buy really bad seafood…bad idea in the first place!)

The cool thing of the recipe is that there is not much preparation required and it really takes 30mins to do the all thing.   You just want to make sure that you have sometime to take care of the mussells and clams (see the previous entry about how to make guazzatto for directions on how to pre this shellfish).

Ok…let’s make the sauce.

  1. In a sauce pot start with the olive oil, the garlic (chopped not too fine), some white wine, pour the mussell and clams (and a bit of the fresh chilly pepper).  Get the fire going at medium heat.
  2. When the clams open and start releasing water let is cooked for a minute (rather less than more).  You will see a nice soupy/watery in the pot…you want to save some of it (about half cup).  This is going to be used later.
  3. At this point add the prawns. After about 1 minute go ahead and add the scallops, the shrimp meat and the calamari.
  4. In about a minute add the chopped tomatoes.  At this point your magic sauce is going to look something like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/149139278/in/set-72057594139056373/
  5. Another minute put the clamsmussell liquid back
  6. Let everything come together for another minute
  7. Add the cooked orecchiette (which you started cooking about 15mins ago on a different pot)
  8. Let everything come together for a minute (add the fresh pepper and italian parsley)
  9. You are done!

The final result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/149139315/in/set-72057594139056373/

Let me know how it goes!



I made this dish this past mother’s day.

It’s a classic “mom’s” recipe and I thought the occasion was perfect.  I had over Hellai and her family.  There were about 12 of us.  Good size party.

Lasagna is another of those dishes that have probably 200 variations and interpretations. I favor the basic approach.  This means that I stay away from any bechamel or cream, keep the sauce to the basic flavors and don’t overload the lasagne with too much stuff.  Fundamentally I focus on having a great sauce with good ingredient and cooked with lots of love.

Now, back in the days my granma (and my mom) would have woken up at 6am to cook the all thing…but that does not work for me.  So, I took the two-day approach.  I made the sauce on Saturday (took about 5 hours cooking) and the lasagna Sunday morning.   It made for a much nicer Sunday.

Here’re the ingredients for the ragu’ sauce (sauce for about 2 1/2 pounds of lasagna):

  • 3 12 big cans of crushed tomatoes (the ones you buy a QFC, Safeway, etc…)
  • about 2 pounds of good ground beef (i got the angus one)
  • about 1 pound of beef chunks, the same one often used for beef stew (stick to the good stuff)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks (get the organic stuff)
  • 2-3 pork chops
  • 8 fresh tomatoes
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion well chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Salt, pepper, oregano, basic
  • olive oil (at leave half cup…I think I used 3/4 of a cup)
  • fresh spice pepper

The immediate question would be: what’re you doing with all that meat?  The meat serves two purposes (1) gives lot of good flavor to the sauce (2) makes the sauce richer (3) i find beef only too strong, the port and chicken help to smooth it (4) it makes for a great “second dish” which goes really well with the lasagne.  Anyway a win-win-win-win type of situation.

Phase I – The sauce

The sauce is made using a fairly standard process. Here’re the basic steps:

  1. Start the “soffritto” (the basic of every italian dish).  This means in a (very) large sauce pan put the olive oil, onion, garlic, celery and carrots.  Let it cook for a few mins.  Keep the heat at medium at most…you don’t want to fry the ingredients, just simmer them.  You can tell that it’s being cooked because the onion gets translucent. 
  2. At this point add the chicken, port and beed chunks.  You will add the ground beef later (less cooking time).  As the meat is cooking and the water starts to dry up a bit add a little white wine (about half cup).  This is about the time when I add the ground beef.  Overall you’ll want to cook the meat for about 30mins or better yet “until it’s done” (I usually just take a piece of chicken and beef, cut it and see if it’s cooked).   Once the meat is cooked.  Take it out, cover it and keep it warm.  Leave the ground beef, since it will cook with the sauce the entire time.
  3. At this point we move to the tomato sauce part.  First step is to add the chopped freshed tomatoes.  Leave them cook for a few mins (probably 5 or so).  
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and the spices (salt, pepper, oregano, a few pieces of spicy pepper and a few leaves of basil).  At this point I am not overly concerned about the amount of spices…we do have lots of time to calibrate the flavor.
  5. You’re on your way to be done.  At this point you just want to simmer the sauce for at least couple of hours.  Make sure you stir it every few minutes (it would not taste too good if the bottom burns).
  6. After couple of hours add back the meat and leave it simmer it for another hour or so.
  7. You are done with the sauce.  The question is…when is the sauce done?  The timeframe I specified here is a reference, but it really depends on many factors.  Here’re some of the things I looked at: (1) density (or viscosity): you don’t want it to liquid or dense.  You should be able to feel a good texture.  (2) oil factor:  when I see a little oil condensing on top of the soap it usually mean that we are almost there (3) bread test: take a bite of bread with some sauce and taste it…how does it taste?  To get an idea of how this could look like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/149140778/in/set-72057594117429374/

OK. The sauce is done.  If you are making the lasagna the day after, just rest the sauce in the fridge.

Phase II – Lasagna day

It’s the day to make the lasagna.  Ingredients:

  • 2-3 packages of lasagna (I used the Barilla brand.  I like the “flat” type)
  • a cup of grated parmiggiano reggiano (get the good stuff…go to PCC/Wholefood)
  • a log of Mozzarella, chopped (get the good stuff!)
  • the sauce we made (warm it up a bit, but don’t cook it again!)

Here’re the steps:

  1. Boil the lasagna for 2-3 minutes.  I know the box says that you don’t need to, but my mom said it’s better doing it, so we just do it.
  2. Take the boiled lasagna and lay it out on paper towel or cloth.  This will dry it, keeping it moist.  Make sure that you put the cooked lasagna under cold water so that it stops cooking.  Check this out to get an idea of what the lasagna should look like after this step: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/149140748/in/set-72057594117429374/
  3. It’s about time to start putting this thing together.  I used a big foil pan. Add a little oil and sauce at the bottom…just to keep it moist. 
  4. Lay out your first layer of lasagna.  Now add the sauce, make sure that you cover the entire area.  Don’t be to shy with the sauce, but don’t put too much either.  You want a good balance.  I really never liked a lasagna that is too saucy.  Also…in the layer don’t put the big chuncks of meat (or chicken or pork) stick with the sauce with ground beef.
  5. After the sauce add some the parmiggiano and mozzarella. For the mozzarella I usually follow the “handful” rule…in other words I take an handfull of the chopped mozzarella and equally spread it around (of course you could add more).
  6. Repeat the step above for 5 times (I usually do about 5 main layers).
  7. The last layer is the lasagna, with just a bit of sauce on top and a good chunk of parmiggiano.  This is the layer that will get slightly burned.  Good stuff.
  8. Ok…you are done.  Pre-heat the over to 400F and stick it in there for about 40mins.  After the forty means I do the “fork test”…if the fork can go through without much resistance, than it’s done!  I turn on the broiler to high, put the lasagna back for couple of mins and it’s done!  http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/149140847/in/set-72057594117429374/

NOTE:  Don’t serve the lasagna right away.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes.  It will be much better.

Don’t forget that you also have that great meat that has been cooking in the sauce. That’s good stuff.  Serve it on the side and all the guest will be super-happy!

Let me know how it goes…



Last week I was in Vegas for a conference.  One of the perks of going down there is that you get the chance to hit some good restaurants.  This time around I visited couple of staple restaurants in the Venetian:  Zeffirino and Valentino.  Both Italian!!!

Let's start from Zeffirino.  I was lucky enough that I lunch and dinner there!   They have a 22USD lunch special.  You get an appetizer, main dish, dessert and coffee.  The portions are good and the quality is good as well.  Believe me that's a good deal, when you go for dinner you can barely get an appetizer for the same price! 

Dinner was more interesting.  The menu is a decent size and the wine menu is fairly large.  Let the servers reccomend wine, it makes the all thing smoother.  They were good at accomodating our price range.

This is what we had:

  • Appetizers
    • Carpaccio d'Orata con misticanza all'extra vergine agrumato
    • Filetto con patate tartufate all'emulsione di tartufo nero
  • Pasta
    • Fettuccine al granchio, astice e gamberi
  • Dessert
    • None…we skipped it, but we got a Lemoncello and a coffee
  • Wine
    • This sounds bad…but I forgot the actual brand.  It was a dry white wine.  Good "value".

The appetizers were a little of a disappointment.  I have to admit, we got fooled by the fancy names (they are fancy also in Italian).  You would expect that being Italian I would catch it right away, but not…I was a little naive.  Think about it "misticanza all'extra vergine agrumato" simply means "olive oil with lemon".  Duh!!! What I was thinking? 

They were literally couple of bites each.  OK, I am cheap…but if I pay 20USD for an appetizer I do want a little more than that!

The pasta was much better.  The pasta they use at the restaurant is homemade.  The sauce (crab meat, lobster and big shrimp in a light tomato sauce) was well balanced.  The quantity was generous. But, hey…at 40USD that's the minimum I would expect. 

We ended up paying about 100USD (and the 2 appetizers were split among the three of us).  This is my quick take on Zeffirino:

  • Go there for lunch.  Great deal.
  • Dinner is overpriced…for a pasta to be 40USD must be EXCEPTIONAL.
  • If you go for dinner skip the appetizers!
  • If your company is paying for it…enjoy the meal! 🙂

Couple of days after the Zeffirino dining experience we had a customer dinner at Valentino.   According to the site and the many reviews this restaurant is supposed to be outstanding.  I found it not be such.  The atmosphere is not too good…the decor does not have any character, very blend and simple (not a "good" simple).  Even worse the food was very generic and without character (it actually matched the place well).   This is what we had:

  • Insalata amara
  • Garganelli with a dried tomato and light cream sauce
  • Branzino with light orange cream

True.  We did not have a full selection and menu was constrained (there were about 30 folks in our group), but that does not justify the actual quality.  Very blend and NOT very Italian…

My quick vote…skip it!  I didn't like it and I did not have to pay for it!

This weekend I am heading to Napa Valley for a long weekend.  Report to come next week! 

Spring is in the air and the summer is coming soon.  So it's about time to explore some of those light seafood dishes that are perfect for the summer dinners.

Let's start with a GREAT appetizer: guazzetto di cozze e vongole (light mussells and clams broth). This is ideal for any size gathering.

In Italy this dish is very popular in coast towns. You can either buy the goods from a local fish market or in many cases you can find them from vendors off the street.  In "theory" it's not legal to go catch mussells yourself, but in my town there are ton of them and some people do round up a few extra $$$ by diving early in the morning. I tried a few times, but quickly realized that I was better at eating them than catching them.
 
In the States you can easily find both mussells and clams. I usually prefer to buy them from specialized fish markets or higher-end supermarkets (Wholefoods or Larry's).  The reason is quite simple: you really don't want to mess up with the quality of these things. Added bonus: the price is pretty much the same.

Before moving to the recipe (very easy), couple of words on how to get the goods:
– Clams…you want them closed
– Mussells…you want them closed and intact

There is another reason to go for a specialized market. They know this stuff and they will discard the ones that are not good.  You don't want to pay for mussells that are you going to throw away…do you?

Once you get them you need to prep them.  This is what I do:

Clams: Put them on warm water with rock salt and leave them for few means (at least 15-20).  The goals is to have them open them just a bit to have the sand comeout.  You may want to go through this couple of times.  Make sure you rinse them one more time before you put them in the pot.

Mussells:  It would be great if you can get mussells already cleaned.  If your provider will not clean them for you, than you'll have to do it.  Budget for the time, it takes more than you may think (of course it depends on the quantity).  When I clean mussell I make sure I do couple of things: clean all the "things" that are stuck to the surface and make sure that I remove the little green cord that comes out of it (sorry…but I don't know how these are called!)

OK…let's move to the official ingredients:

  • One pound of clams
  • One pound of mussells
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One tomato
  • a cup of white wine
  • a bunch of italian parsley
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • optional: some bread (the "regular" one, something like "pugliese")

Putting this together is really easy.

Take a decently sized pot.  In the pot pour the olive oil (between 14 and 12 cup), the garlic (don't over chop it, I usually just make 4-5 pieces out of each clove), clams, mussells, tomatos (I remove the "soft" part and cut it in big chunks), ground pepper, wine and some chopped parsley.

Leave it cooking at medium hit for about 10mins.  You will see the clams and the mussells opening up, after they are open just keep them for 2-3 minutes.  You don't want them to overcook and become dry. 

You are done!  Just pour such goodness in a big serving plate, sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

Bonus.  Take the bread, slice it and toast it.  Serve the bread on the side of the serving platter…that toasted bread with the clam/mussells broth tastes really good!

Couple of reference pictures here.

I leave with a final note…PLEASE do not use cream on this dish! 🙂

Couple of weeks ago I had a few friends over for a small get together (about 10-12 people).  Aside from drinks, appetizers, and munchies we wanted to have a good pasta.  After a small debate we went for "pasta all'amatriciana".  I hadn't had it for sometime and it was cold outsite, great timing!

Amatriciana is what I define a "ubiquitous" dish in Italy.  You can find it pretty much in every restaurant, in fact in many restaurant it may not even be in the menu.  You just ask for it.  Afterall, which chef/cook wouldn't know how to make it?

The history of this dish is very interesting.  You can check it out on wikipedia.  Of course the Amatrice site (allegedly the town where the sauce was first invented) reports that the dish was indeed invented there.  Originally it was a dish prepared by the the mountain shepards and later introduced to the Romans (which renamed it "Matriciana").

Given such rich history you could also understand why there are so many different variations of the basic recipe.  Onions? Garlic? Guanciale? Bacon? Tomatos? Pecorino? Lots of questions. 

I did find lots of recipes, just to name a few: Il Babbo, Barilla (Italian), DeLaurenti, Gennarino (Italian).

Here're the ingredients I bought at QFC to make the pasta for 12 people (50/50 malefemale). 

  • 3 packages of "penne rigate" (Barilla
  • 3 big cans of "crushed tomatoes" (S&W brand)
  • 6 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 onion 
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pound of pork steaks (the ones with a little more fat)
  • 1 pound of thick fresh bacon
  • Parmiggiano
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt, Pepper, olive oil

My tought process on the selection of the ingredients:

  • It would have great to have guanciale,  but it's not that easy to find and I decided on the dish two hours before dinner.  Get some good chunks of pork that have a mix of lean and fatty parts…it's not that far (butcher' son speaking here!)
  • Yes, pancetta is better than bacon…but it costs four times as much and it does make a difference when you are cooking for lots of people.  Go for the thick fresh bacon.
  • I had parmiggiano already…so I did not go off and buy the pecorino.  This ingredient is quite important…invest a few extra $$$ and get it from a higher-end market (I got mine at PCC)
  • Celery, tomatoes, crushed tomators, etc… I use these for the tomato "base" sauce .  I will probably cover this in a different posting another day.
  • I chose penne for a couple of reason: (1) Bucatini where not available and penne are actually a great alternative from a flavor perspective (they absorb lots of flavor and that's great with a rich sauce) (2) penne are much easier to eat standing or sitting who knows where.  "ease" of eating is always an important factor when cooking for lots of people…bucatini don't really fall in this category.

Now the steps for the sauce.

  1. Get a nice and thik sauce pan and add olive oil.  I probably used a little more than half cup, my grandma would reccomend leaning toward the "more" olive oil rather than being short.
  2. Warm up the olive oil and add the chunks of pork (I took the steaks and cut them in bite-size chuncks).
  3. After a minute add the bacon (need to cut it in small chunks as well)
  4. Have everything cook until "lightly golden".  Don't burn it, don't worry too much about being perfectly cooked, it will get cooked more later.
  5. Remove the pork and bacon from the pan and place it in a platter.  You'll need this later.
  6. Now add the diced onion, the diced celery and the diced carrot.  Let is cooked until "lightly golden".  Don't burn it!
  7. Add the diced tomatoes (I usually discard all the "tomato interiors" before dicing it)
  8. Have the tomatoes cook for a few mins…you'll see the tomato starting melting
  9. Add the pork stuff back and give it a good stir.  
  10. After 30-60 seconds add the crushed tomatoes from the cans
  11. Spice it up!  Add the chilli pepper flakes (a teaspoon), pepper and salt.  Don't be shy!
  12. Now, get it to the simmering point and leave it cooking for at least an hour. Keep stearing the sauce as necessary.  You don't want it to burn at the bottom.
  13. The sauce is pretty much done (I usually leave it on a the very low heat)

The pasta part is relatively straightforward:

  1. Bring a big pot of water to boil
  2. Drop the pasta and add salt (a good handful is a good start)
  3. Let is cook for about 12-15mins.  NOTE: the cooking time indicated on the package is based on the time the water is boiling.  This means that to properly cook it you need to add a few extra mins
  4. Taste the pasta…so you know if it's cooked right
  5. When you are done just drain it

Bringing the dish together

  1. Take the drained pasta and pour it in the sauce (with the heat on)
  2. Stir them together over medium heat for a minute or so
  3. optional: add some cheese as you are steering. This is optional since you could do it later directly in the plate, think of people that don't like cheese!
  4. You are good to go!!!

To close on the story.  Everyone seemed to have loved the pasta.  The real proof is that there was no pasta left and everyone got a second serving.

You can find a few reference pix here.

Would love to hear any suggestions or comments!