Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana - January's Cover Girl Dinner

On June 1, 1907, a 20-year-old young woman was left at Battery Park. It was damp and and an all-time low temperature of 28 degrees F would be posted for that late spring evening. Possibly illiterate, speaking no English and in peasant garb, she had few possessions. She clutched a piece of paper in her hand that said: "Francesco Laviano, 30 Thompson Street." Francesco did not meet her at Ellis island. The powers-that-be sent her alone into Manhattan. She stopped a couple and showed them the address in her hand. "Scusi...." They pointed at her and laughed and went on their merry way. So began my grandmother's first day in America.
`
After an emotional week of digging through records, arguing about the age of my grandmother and nagging my mother, I decided that an exact age wasn't important. What was and is important is the humanity in my heritage - in your heritage. What shaped us. What continues to be with us.
`
Why I decided on the spur of the moment to cook the "Cover Girl Dinner" at the end of the week is beyond me. Perhaps because the cover recipe for Bon Appetit was spaghetti and meatballs in a spicy, smoky tomato sauce. The kind of sauce that my family has been making for generations. My thru-line.

I'll start with the dessert - because it didn't come out. In-between combining the 47 ingredients needed for the meatballs (yes, I exaggerate - but just a tad), I made a ricotta pound cake. Simple and not too heavy. It fell. In the middle. Around the time I was browning 72 meatballs (and that is no exaggeration), I watched my ricotta pound cake cave in. I combined some blueberries I had frozen last July with a little sugar and dumped it over the cave-in spot. I then moved it so I wouldn't have to look at it. I knew I would serve it.
`
Meanwhile, I am pureeing tomatoes, browning meatballs, adding a little bit of garlic and a touch of marjoran. I am fierce. I am my grandmother - only five inches taller. Three hours later, I am tired. Appetizers would be thrown together. These biscuits are at my grocers. Raisins, almonds and a spicy cracker base - perfect for a tangy cheese.


I mindlessly eat a couple as I make a small cheese torte.


Try them - they are sweet, spicy, tangy, chewy, crispy delectables.

I combined leftover goat cheese with leftover mascarpone (oh how I threw this dinner together). I put half into a small ramekin, topped it with some olive tapenade and covered it with the other half of the cheese. And put it into the fridge to set.

I threw together some lettuces, toasted some pecans, sauteed a pear and combined it all. A little bit of Minnesota's own Northern Lights blue cheese was crumbled on top for the salad. Grandma and Grandpa liked their fruits and cheeses. A tbl of white balsamic with a few tbls of olive oil and the salad was set.
`
One hour later, the cheese was served and demolished. Cracker bag lays empty. Salad's on the table being a temptress and the dishes of spaghetti went out.

The 47-ingredient meatball was worth the time, the forming, the browning, the simmering. Grandma smiled. Ladies and gentleman, I bring you Bon Appetit's Spaghetti All'Amatriciana. Find the recipe here. It was worth every stir.

Spicy without being instrusive, smoky, tomato-sweet, herb-infused meatballs. Harmony. On the plate and on your palette. Dancing in synch.


I'm digging out a forkful for you. Trust me, after this dish, you wouldn't care what the ricotta pound cake looked like.
`
Last year's New Year's resolution was to make the cover recipe of Bon Appeit each month - no matter what. It was such a success, it continues. I do not know if I should stick with Bon Appetit only. Add a new magazine or add a host of magazines? What do you think?

38 comments:

bonnie said...

I love the mix of A recipe with a story, how precious- I know your grandma is smiling down at your effort. Take care everything looks delish!!


sweetlife

Michelle said...

What a terrifying experience for your Grandmother! I can't imagine a worst situation then being alone in a big city, not speaking the language and being a woman on top of it. Makes me shiver just thinking about it!

I do genealogy and you might be able to find the passenger list and most times they listed the age of the passenger.

Your spaghetti looks fantastic!

pegasuslegend said...

Amazing story, I would have loved to be in the kitchen with grandma, incredible spread you just made here, the meatballs sound fabulous, love the sound of that pound cake and wow the smell in the kitchen is calling me.....awesome post, some great talent you inherited!

Table Talk said...

Meatballs are supposed to be one of the "it" foods for 2010....did they ever go out of style? Not in our house!
I stil subscribe to Bon Appetit, but have to say I do most of my reading online these days.

Drick said...

such a great read, meatballs are so time consuming but oh so worth it, everything looks really great...

steph said...

Looks great!! I wish I had a bowl of that pasta for lunch today.

Kim said...

I can only imagine the kind of stories your grandmother would have to share. Amazing what people went through when they came to this country.
The spaghetti looks insanely delicious. I think I'm going to have to have some for dinner now.
Cooking the cover of BonAppetite sounds fun and I love the name cover girl recipes. Is there another magazine out there that you like just as well?

Vrinda said...

Spaghetti meatballs looks so yumm..i haven't tried this yet,one of the best combo...

Claudia said...

I was thinking of alternating with Tastes of Italia. (Right up my alley) Part of the fun is not knowing what you are going to cook - so I have to make up
my mind soon!

Claudia said...

Ruth: - Your comment went away! I am so sorry! But I thank you for it. My grandmother and grandfather were both from Basilicata. Grandma from Stigliano and Grandpa from Portenza.

Claudia said...

Michelle - I did find the passenger list - complete with the age - which is where my cousins and I differ. Everything fits though. And the later Laviano/Gresios spent two generations lying about their ages!

Scate said...

I LOVE the "Cover Girl" meal idea - and think i will have to try that. Thanks for sharing the family culture behind your meal. I am very influenced by my family history, and LOVE to incorporate it into food whenever i can. THough I must admit - I sometimes lean on my husband's italian background more than my finnish roots for dinner!

Gloria said...

Spagetti meatballs look awesome!! nice recipe,gloria

Bridgett said...

I love reading about your grandmother and I hope you continue to share some of your new discoveries about her in your research. Wow...what a brilliant feast! What time would you like me for dinner?

theUngourmet said...

It was great to read more about you grandmother!

Your 47 ingredient meatballs look fabulous and so does the caved in cake! :)

Happy Wednesday!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Claudia I'm sure your ricotta pound cake smothered with blueberies tasted divine, even if it sunk in the middle...to me it looks like a
"happy accident"..sometimes the best recipes are born that way!

Is there anything better than meatballs and spaghetti? It's so funny..my Calabrese Italian husband insists that the spaghetti must be eaten first, followed by the meatbalss..he will not allow them to be served togther. I never understood that but I guess that is the way it was eaten in his home.

I try a lot of the supermaket type magazines, like "Women's Day" and "Family Circle," recipes. They are usually easy to make, use seasonal ingredients and and tasste good.

When I really want to make spmething special "Cucina Italiana" is my "go to" magazine.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

How frightening for your grandmother. I think women were stronger in her day than they are now. Love your spaghetti too.
Sam

Lynda said...

Love the story of your brave grandmother, Claudia-the things some of our ancestors have gone through are quite frigthening.
The meatballs and spaghetti look terrific; they are one of my all time favorites!
BTW, I made a ricotta pound cake last summer, and it fell in the middle too! I was so dissapointed that I didn't post it, but it tasted delicious.

Nancy said...

What a wonderful post! The meatballs and spaghetti look delicious.

Vegetarian Times has had really great recipes lately, and Saveur always has some that are interesting (sometimes a little out there!) and different.

OysterCulture said...

Holy cow, if someone cooked me a meal like that I'd have no secrets. I love the family stories and connections, they're what make life special. Thanks so much for sharing.

figtree said...

What a wonderful touching story..now can I have one of those meatballs pleeeeeeze??

Katherine Aucoin said...

Your wore me out thorwing so many things together, but i know you were on a mission, a mission of who you are.

Everything looks so wonderful. I would love to sit at the table with you and share a big plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

I just received my first issue of Bon Appetit and this looks like the most wonderful magazone for anyone who enjoys cooking!

Katy ~ said...

i find you so brave to cook the cover recipe of Bon Appetit. I feel that their recipes are beyond my skill set.

The spaghetti and meatballs and sauce look superb through, a perennial favorite here.

You've made your grandmother smile!

Velva said...

Claudia, what a beautiful meal. I need take a 2nd look at the cover of Bon Appetit. Your grandmother would be very proud.

Cinnamon-Girl♥ said...

I'm certain you made your Grandma proud! I understand about trying to find answers about your her. I go through the same thing with my Mom over my Great Grandma. Grasping at every little memory she shares and the small bits of information that I have about where she's from. And the trying to figure out what's fact from fiction.

Your spaghetti and meatballs sound excellent! And you cake too with all them fresh blueberries. XO

Barbara GF said...

What a fabulous meal you "threw" together, Claudia! I think you should cook whatever strikes your culinary fancy. Change it up if you're tired with just one magazine cover.

biz319 said...

Loved the story of your grandma! My FIL came over here from Florence Italy when he was 12!

I love all the recipes in Bon Appetit - have you seen this months? The short rib grilled cheese??

I plan to make it, without the onions though. Can't stand onions!

Glad your intense meatball making turned out at least!

Debbie said...

My grandparents also came here from Italy in the 1920's so I can relate to your grandmother's story. I make spaghetti and meatballs often and always use her recipe....

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

The whole meal looks wonderful to me, even the cake. I would be honored to share this meal with you guys.
Your pasta dish looks so wonderful I'm inspired to pull out my copy and give it a try!

pierre said...

I LOVE THESE SPAGHETTIS

CHEERS FROM PARIS PIERRE

Tania said...

Hi Claudia! I like this post, spaghetti and meatballs are delicious!

Debbie said...

Claudia - I just read your comment on my blog and I am from Queens also!!! I lived in Queens Village till I was 14 then moved to Bellerose till I was in my early twenties!!! My grandparents lived in Flushing! Small world!!!

Ruth said...

Wonder what happened to the comment lol
So they were from right down south. I have some students from that area and the way they described their cuisine sounds amazing! No wonder your recipes are to die for lol

Chow and Chatter said...

oh your Grandma was a brave lady, love the meatballs and those cheese biscuits are heavenly with Brie love it

Mary said...

Claudia, I'm so glad you shared your grandmother's story with us. It's one of triumph - the kind that is rapidly disappearing from our national psyche. I'm also glad you shared the recipe for meatballs and spaghetti with us. They sound delicious. Thank you for both. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Megan said...

Great post! My mouth now waters for spaghetti and meatballs. I made a ricotta cake once and I got a big crater too. Hiding it with berries was a smart idea! :)

Peanutts said...

I love your story about your grandma :) , hello nice to meet you, first time checking out your blog. love meatballs with spagetti( and you werent kidding about the 47 ingrediants, thats a lot of stuff in those meat balls :) )

Cookin' Canuck said...

What a wonderful story about your grandmother! Those meatballs look like a wonderful tribute to her and her experiences.