Synopses & Reviews
Pasta and Chick Pea SoupPasta e CeciYield: 8 to 10 servingsThe Italians are great soup eaters, and one of the truly classic trattoria soups is this simple blend of chick peas -- also known as garbanzo beans -- simmered in an aromatic broth, punctuated by bits of pasta, and seasoned at table with best-quality olive oil. The soup should be thick and porridge-like, almost thick enough to hold a spoon upright! Since it's so rich, serve it in small portions, accompanied, at most, by a green salad or simple grilled poultry or fish. It's also a great treat when preceded by a platter of raw vegetables dipped in olive oil, just as I sampled one spring evening at Trattoria Omero, a lively spot with a marvelous view of the hills of Florence. Some foods are simply an excuse for eating something else, and I often think of this golden, harvest-like soup as an excuse for garlic and oil, two favorite foods that always put me in a happy frame of mind.Ingredients: 3 cups (1 pound; 500 g) dried chick peas (garbanzo beans)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
4 plump fresh garlic cloves, crushed
Several sprigs of fresh parsley, sprigs of sage, bay leaves, and celery leaves, tied in a bundle with cotton twine
2 to 3 quarts (2 to 3 l) cold water
Fine sea salt to taste
1/2cup (3 ounces; 90 g) tiny dried Italian pasta, such as ditalini, broken spaghetti, or tiny elbow macaroni
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the table
Instructions: Rinse and drain the chick peas, picking them over to remove any pebbles. Place the chick peas in a large bowl, add boiling water to cover, and set aside for 1 hour. Drain and rinsethe chick peas, discarding the water. Set aside.In a 6-quart (6-1) heavy-bottomed stockpot, combine the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and the herb bundle, and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chick peas, stir to coat with oil, and cook for 1 minute more. Add 2 quarts (2 l) water and stir. Cover, bring to a simmer over moderate heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Add the salt and continue simmering until the chick peas are tender, about 1 hour more, stirring from time to time to make sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the stockpot. Add additional water if the soup becomes too thick. (Cooking time will vary according to the freshness of the chick peas.)Remove and discard the herb bundle. Using an immersion mixer, roughly puré e the soup directly in the stockpot. (Alternatively, pass the soup through the coarse blade of a food mill or puré e in batches in a food processor, and return it to the stockpot.) The soup should have a creamy, but not totally smooth, consistency. It should be very thick, almost porridge-like. Season with salt to taste. Add the pasta, stir, and cook just until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more, stirring frequently to keep the pasta from sticking. Taste for seasoning.To serve, ladle the soup -- piping hot -- into warmed shallow soup bowls. Pass a cruet of extra-virgin olive oil, drizzling a swirl of oil directly into each bowl of soup. (The soup, of course, may be reheated several times over a period of several days. If it thickens, simply thin with water each time you reheat the soup.)Ricotta Cheesecake with Pine Nuts and RaisinsTorta diRicottaThis is a delicate, tenderly sweet, and crustless ricotta cheesecake, studded lightly with pine nuts and raisins, and harboring a faint hint of lemon, orange, and spice. I frankly prefer it to the heavier, richer American-style cheesecake, and strongly recommend that cheesecake lovers add it to their repertoire. I sampled this dessert one sunny Saturday in December, at the excellent family-run trattoria Checchino dal 1887, in Rome.Igredients: Unsalted butter and all-purpose flour for preparing the cake pan
1 cup (200 g) Vanilla Sugar (page 324)
1/3cup (45 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2cup (2 ounces; 60 g) pine nuts
3/2cup (70 g) golden raisins
1/4teaspoon fine sea salt
2 pounds (1 kg) whole-milk ricotta (or two 15-ounce containers)
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon
Grated zest (orange peel) of 1 orange
Confectioner's sugar, for garnish
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 300& deg; F (150& deg; C; gas mark 3/4).Generously butter and flour a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.IIn a small bowl, stir together the vanilla sugar, flour, pine nuts, raisins, and salt. Set aside.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, gently beat the ricotta at low speed until smooth. Add the beaten eggs little by little, then add the vanilla sugar mixture and gently mix to blend. Add the spices, vanilla, and zests. Mix to blend thoroughly.Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the cheesecake is a deepgolden brown and fairly firm in the center, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Once cooled, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time. (The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance.)To serve, release the sides of the springform pan, leaving the cheesecake on the pan base. Sprinkle the top generously with confectioner's sugar and serve, cutting into very thin wedges.
Whether it's a bustling eatery in the heart of Florence or a tiny alcove tucked away on a side street in Venice, the trattoria is where Italians go for robust flavors, great friendship, and good times. Patricia Wells' Trattoria now feeds America's passion for Italian food with 150 authentic recipes. Savor a Fresh Artichoke Omelet, succulent Lamb Braised in White Wine, Garlic, and Hot Peppers, a hearty portion of Lasagne with Basil, Garlic, and Tomato Sauce, or a luscious Fragrant Orange and Lemon Cake, and much more. This essential cookbook of Italian trattorias presents a full range of homemade recipes for antipasti, soups, dried and fresh pastas, polenta, seafood, poultry, and meat, with special chapters on breads, pizzas, and desserts. Come explore the heart and soul of Italian cooking in Patricia Wells' Trattoria.
The award-winning author of "Simply French" presents authentic trattoria food--150 recipes from the small family restaurants of Italy and from bakeries and pastry shops that touch upon the good and simple Italian life.
About the Author
Patricia Wells is a journalist, author, and teacher who runs the popular cooking school At Home with Patricia Wells in Paris and Provence. She has won four James Beard Awards and the French government has honored her as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, recognizing her contribution to French culture. A former New York Times reporter, she is the only foreigner and the only woman to serve as restaurant critic for a major French publication, L'Express. She served as the global restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune for more than twenty-five years. She lives in Paris and Provence with her husband, Walter Wells.