A year or two ago, though, I developed a dinner that feels like a pasta dinner that isn’t a pasta dinner, it’s a polenta dinner. I take whole sausages, brown them in olive oil, add onions and garlic to the pan, make a quick tomato sauce, and braise the sausages in there. Meanwhile, I cook a pot of polenta at the same time.
Some food people are real sticklers for words and what they mean. For example: pizza. I consider the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza (developed by Nancy Silverton) to be some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, but there are detractors out there who call it focaccia because it’s so puffy. I’m pretty sure it’s pizza for a few reasons: 1. it’s round; 2. it’s cooked in a wood-burning oven; 3. the name of the restaurant is Pizzeria Mozza.
Still, even I had to raise an eyebrow at the pizza I just made from the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit. The dough is a clever riff on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread. Though this one you knead, for 12 minutes, and then let it rest–and ferment–overnight in the fridge.
For those of you who aspire to make pasta at home but don’t have the time or the will or the resources (like, a pasta machine), here’s a recipe for you. It’s called Pici and it’s one of the more satisfying things I’ve made for dinner in recent memory. You may be thinking: “Adam, didn’t you just post a pasta recipe two days ago?” It’s true; and on this particular week when I made the pici, I’d only had that other pasta dinner three days earlier. But watching David Chang’s Mind Of A Chef on PBS (a pretty excellent show), I started to get a hankering for noodles. In Japan, people eat noodles all the time; why couldn’t I have noodles for dinner a second time in one week? Damn it, I deserve it! Only these noodles–ah, pasta (Michael White yelled at me for calling pasta “noodles” once)–would be handmade and would only take me 15 minutes. Don’t believe me?
Our old friend and neighbor Rob was in town last week and, craving an Amateur Gourmet-cooked meal, swung on over with our friend Luke (am I allowed to say “our Oscar-winning friend” Luke?) on Sunday night. Like a good Italian grandmother, I had a pot simmering on the stove all afternoon and by the time everyone was assembled at the table, my plan to kill everyone with meat was in full effect.
My parents and I often get into a quibbling match over the Italian food that they like and the Italian food that I like. The Italian food that they like is the food found at what’s typically called “a red sauce joint” with dishes every American who’s been to EPCOT or an Olive Garden can rattle off: Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Scarpiello, Shrimp Scampi (a tautological phrase since scampi means shrimp), and so on. I’m not against this food–sometimes, I really enjoy it–but my parents LOVE this food and put it on a higher pedestal than the food you find at the Italian restaurants I love, restaurants like Babbo or A Voce. When I try to explain that the latter food is more authentic, my parents are incredulous: after all, their favorite Italian restaurants are owned and managed by Italians who moved here direct from Italy. So what is the difference? Maybe it’s not a question of authenticity, just a question of quality. Either way: the subject was ripe as we sat down this weekend for dinner at Andrew Carmellini’s brand new restaurant in TriBeCa, Locanda Verde.