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FOOTBALL FARE…

With Superbowl XLI just around the corner and playoffs coming up this month, there’s no better time to have a party and try out recipes. Here’s three great party – friendly recipes, each from a different Mario cookbook. Make sure to make enough to last at least through the first quarter.

Prosicutto Wrapped Grilled Asparagus – from Mario Tailgates Nascar Style|
Serves 6

2 pounds asparagus, medium to thick stalks (about ½ inch in diameter)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
½ pound prosciutto

1. Snap off the bottom of each asparagus stem, which should politely break right where the woody part ends. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the bottom 3 inches of the stem.

2. Brush the stems with olive oil and sprinkle with salt

3. Grill the asparagus over medium high heat until lightly browned all over, 3 to 4 minutes.(Be sure to place the stems across the grates so they won’t fall through)

4. Let the asparagus cool, then, wrap a cluster of 3 or 4 asparagus in a slice of proscitutto.

5. Arrange on a platter and serve

Stuffed Rice Balls Roman – Style – from Molto Italiano
Makes 6 servings

¼ cup dried porcini
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 4 cups for deep-frying
3 tablespoonos unsalted butter
1 Spanish onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
2 ounces prosciutto di parma, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 cup Arborio rice
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
5 ounces Mozzarella, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 ¾ cups dried bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, soak the mushrooms in the hot water for 30 minutes.

2. Lift out the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and finely chop. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve into another small bowl and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan, heat the three tablespoons of olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and prosciutto and cook until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring until opaque, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups hot water and the mushroom water, bring to a boil, and cool uncovered, until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Turn the rice out into a bowl, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir the eggs, parsley and Parmigiano into the rice.

4. For the filling, mix the chopped porcini and the mozzarella cubes together in a bowl.

5. Using a tablespoon, make egg-shaped balls of the rice mixture, you should have 12 to 14. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each, insert 1 teaspoon of the filling, and use your palms to round the ball so that the filling is completely enclosed.

6. In a large deep pot, heat the 4 cups olive oil over medium high heat until it reaches 370 F. Roll each ball in the bread crumbs so that it is completely coated, and set on a plate. Working in batches, fry the balls in the hot oil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature (do not refrigerate).

Zeppole – Italian Doughnuts – from Mario Batali Holiday Food.
Makes 20 to 24 little doughnuts

2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 eggs
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons, plus 2 quarts canola oil, for frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup best quality strawberry jam

1. Place the water, salt and butter in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Have a whisk and a wooden spoon ready. Remove the pan from the heat and dump the flour in all at once, whisking it all in. Return to the burner and start stirring with a spoon. Cook, stirring constantly, until the dough starts to pull easily from the sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until tepid, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring in each one completely before adding the next. Stir in the vanilla. Cool completely.

2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment and oil the paper with olive oil. Line another try with several layers of paper towels,. In a 4 to 6 quart pan, heat the oil to 375 degrees over medium heat. Place the dough into a pastry bag with a 1 inch round tip and pipe 2 inch rings onto the tray, as many as can fit. When all the dough is used, refrigerate the dough rings until chilled.

3. Using a spatula, slide the circles of the dough into the hot oil, four or five at a time, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, carefully flipping to cook on the second side. Remove each batch as it is finished and rain on the paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar while still hot.

4. Place the strawberry jam in a small saucepan and heat gently over medium heat. Serve the zeppole warm or at room temperature with the warm jam on the side.