Pasta 101

Before we go any further,  I think it is time to get down to some basics and one of them is Pasta.  Pasta….is a basic here in Italy.  Sometimes the easiest dishes are the hardest to get perfect.  Pasta seems easy, but when not cooked properly it  can end up a soggy, starchy mess.   The following recipe Pasta 101, will walk you through a step by step method for cooking dried pasta and ensuring it is al dente (firm to the bite) every time !

I will accompany the Pasta 101 recipe with a nice,  Springtime  fresh chunky tomato sauce with thyme.  

Lets get started!!


Pasta 101

  • Servings: 2-3
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This is one of my Basic recipes and can be used  for all types and sizes of pastas.


-1/2 pound or 250 grams of pasta


-sea salt

-sauce to accompany pasta


-In a large pot fill 3/4 with cold water and place on high heat burner, bring to rolling boil, add between 1 and 2 tablespoons of gross grain sea salt (note- salt is our friend in Italian cooking, and we aren’t afraid of it!! )

-Add the pasta, stirring.   Please respect the time indicated on the pasta package.  (note- pasta companies are not misleading you, they are pretty accurate with their cooking times so use your timer)

-Set time for 1 minute less than  time indicated, you will finish  cooking your pasta in the  hot skillet with it’s accompanying sauce. (note- keep the pasta water until you have finished the dish, we will use the water to elongate the sauce if needed)…..Cold sauces and  sauces mixed with drained pasta we will discuss later!!


-depending on the type,  use one of these tools to take the pasta out of it’s boiling water and into the sauce of choice.FullSizeRender 7

The fork for all your long pastas, spaghetti, fettucini, bucatini etc… and the draining spoons for penne, rigatoni, and those types.

-When the timer sounds, pick the pasta out of the water,  give it a few seconds to drain over the pot…. you don’t want to carry lots of excess water  into the sauce.


-with a lively flame or on a medium setting ,stir the pasta with it’s sauce for another minute, if you need more liquid use the hot pasta  water, taste for doneness, it should be al dente.  (note- the cheese can be added while the pasta is cooking to combine all of your flavors)IMG_0717

Buon Appetito!!


Springtime fresh chunky tomato sauce with thyme

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe can be easily adjusted just add more tomatoes and thyme!!


1-2 large ripe tomatoes chopped

-1 clove of garlic

-1 tbls extra virgin olive oil

-sea salt and pepper

-2 sprigs of fresh thyme


-In a wok style skillet, large enough to hold your quantity of pasta add the olive oil and garlic clove. On a low heat lightly brown the garlic.IMG_0710

-Add the chopped tomatoes,   sea salt, pepper and thyme.   Stir and let simmer while your pasta is boiling.FullSizeRender copy 2

-When the pasta is ready (see above) add to the skillet and stir cooking for 1 minute with a lively heat…adding pasta water if the sauce seems to be dry…. taste for salt.  Either add cheese on or off flame.

Buon Appetito !!


It’s Artichoke Season!!!! Artichokes 3 Ways

In Italy one of the most exciting seasons  is “Artichoke season”….We love, love, love our artichokes, prepared in every which way.  To start today, I am cooking with  3 different types of artichokes , preparing them in 3 different ways…..The first, a spiny leafed artichoke with a long stem attached is from the Italian Island of Sardinia.  Carciofo_14476198380142

Next,  the  Roman Artichoke, this artichoke is similar to what we find in our American grocery stores.  In my following recipe I will only be using the bottoms of these Roman artichokes.  In Italy, we can easily find artichoke bottoms at our vegetable vendor.  There is a technique for cutting away the artichoke while keeping it’s bottom intact,   you are welcome to try it…..I will give a lesson on this in a upcoming blog.FullSizeRender 6

And finally, the third type are the small flower top blooms which we call Bottoli, in America we call them “baby artichokes”.FullSizeRender 4

The following recipes are fast, easy, and healthy, don’t forget Artichoke have tons of health benefits sooooooo  eat up!!!

Buon Appetito

Basic Baby Artichokes

  • Servings: 15 baby artichokes
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe is one of my   “BASIC” recipes, meaning the recipe is used as a base for other dishes ie….Risotto con Carcofi or Pasta with Artichokes.


-15 baby artichokes  (bottoli)

-3  garlic cloves peeled and smashed with a knife

-2 tbls extra virgin olive oil

-3/4 cups of water

-small knob of butter (optional)

-fresh parsley, chopped fine

-sea salt and pepper to taste


-First,  pull off all the outer leaves of the artichokes, cut the tops straight across where the last spiny tipped leaf ends.  Then with a paring knife peel the outer layer of the stem and cut the very bottom of the stem.  When finished they should look like the photo below.

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-In a heavy bottom pot, like a Le Creuset  enameled,add the olive oil and the smashed garlic cloves, on med/low heat lightly brown the garlic.

-Add the artichokes, water,  a palm of parsley, sea salt, pepper and if you like a small knob of butter.  Cook covered on low heat until  artichokes become tender.  They should cook in  15-20 minutes depending on their size and the amount of outer leaves they have.

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Artichoke Bottoms with Fried Parsley and Garlic Chips

  • Servings: 6 artichoke bottoms
  • Difficulty: easy
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A great side dish or vegetarian entree.



-6 artichoke bottoms

-3 large garlic cloves

-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

-1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped fine

-sea salt and pepper


-In a pot large enough to fit your artichoke bottoms cover with water, add sea salt and bring to a boil.  Boil until a fork is easily inserted through the thickest part of the bottom. Drain and plate.

-Peel the 3 garlic cloves and slice thinly as possible

-Chop the parsleyIMG_0681

-While boiling the bottoms, in a small heavy skillet add the olive oil and the garlic chips making sure that they are not overlapping.  On low heat bring the oil to a boil and watch carefully as not to burn the garlic (note-once the garlic browns you can turn the heat off noting that it will continue to brown until the oil cools).  Add the parsley into the boiling oil when garlic is golden brown and cook another minute.IMG_0685.JPGIMG_0686


– On the plated artichoke bottoms, divide the garlic chips and parsley and  the seasoned olive oil.

Buon Appetito !!


Simple Grilled Artichokes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Easy, easy, easy and so good!!


-4 large artichokes with stems

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

-sea salt large ground

-3 large garlic cloves pressed


-with a paring knife, peel the outer layer of the stem, and cut of the bottom end.

-cut the artichokes in half,  remove the fuzzy, spiny  pulp in the center of the choke, careful not to remove the heart.  Remove the outermost leaves, then, cut  the top of the artichoke in a place where the pointy tops are all cut off (note-this will make sense when you see the artichoke without the outermost leaves)

-Place all the artichokes in a large enough pot to boil without having to cut off the stems or bend them add sea salt and bring to boil.  Boil for 8-10  minutes until the artichokes soften. Drain and place on a paper towel while you heat the grill.IMG_0651

-while the artichokes are boiling, clean the garlic and using a garlic press, press the garlic into the olive oil and set aside.

-on a hot grill direct  medium heat,place the artichokes  with a brush, paint the garlic oil mixture on the artichokes and add the sea salt being generous.  Turn and do the same with the other side.  Cook until the artichokes are golden brown.

Plate and enjoy

Buon Appetito!!




Veal meatballs with simple tomato sauce

#whatsmickeycooking’s  very first recipe blog has to be Meatballs. Growing up they  were, and still today  are  our all time favorite food.  This is Italo-American comfort food at it’s best!!

These meatballs have a history in our Italian/American family.  The recipe,  from my paternal Grandmother was revised and updated by my Mother ( my Mom says my GM purposefully left out key ingredients!!).   Now , this is my version of my Mom’s recipe. They are great made little, served as appetizers  with a dipping sauce, medium sized served with pasta or like these served alone as a main course with  vegetables and salad.

Veal Meatballs with a simple tomato sauce,

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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This is a fast, easy recipe that everyone loves.

This recipe can also be made using a combination of ground beef and ground veal.  Ask your butcher to grind the meat mixture twice.


-1 3/4 Pounds or 800 grams of Ground Veal

-3 Garlic cloves minced or pressed

-10 Lg Basil leaves

-5 Lg Eggs

-3/4 Cups of Grated Parmigiano Reggiano  Cheese

-3/4 Cups of fine breadcrumbs

-sea salt (fine)


-extra virgin olive oil


-In a medium sized mixing bowl add the ground veal, the cheese, and  the breadcrumbs.

– Using either a blender or immersion blender mix the eggs, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.  Blend well until the basil is completely blended with the eggs.

-Pour the blended mixture into the mixing bowl of veal , mix together well, but don’t overwork the meat, you might need to adjust the  breadcrumbs.  The mixture should take the shape of a large ball.

– In a non-stick skillet large enough to hold 12 meatballs, add oil  (note- I try to use as little as possible we are just browning these).  Roll the meat into the size or style  of meatball you would like (note- you can also shape them in hamburger shape).  When the oil is hot add the meatballs being very careful.  Brown the meatballs on all sides.



Carefully turn them to prevent breakage.  When they are rust colored they are finished browning.  Being very careful place each on a plate to rest while you construct the Simple Tomato Sauce (Note- keep the pan scrapings for the construction of your sauce)….  Recipe to follow.

-When tomato sauce is mixed, gently place the meatballs along with their juices back into the pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes covered, until the center of the meat is cooked.  Serve hot or at room temperature.  They’re great both ways.

Enjoy, Buon Appetito !!


  • Servings: 3 1/2 cups or 700 grams
  • Difficulty: easy.
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This simple sauce is used with meats/meatballs that are already seasoned.  It’s simplicity will not overwhelm the meat/fish


-3 1/2 cups or 1 bottle of tomato sauce (note- I use Mutti  Passata di Pomodoro, which can be found at Italian specialty markets)

-1 large garlic clove crushed or diced

-1 1/2 tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil

-Pinch of sugar

-Salt and Pepper to taste


– Lightly brown the crushed garlic in the olive oil,  then carefully add the tomato sauce, add sugar, salt and pepper..(note- for above recipe, use the pan used for browning, along with it’s juices…add the garlic then follow the recipe as above, add meatballs and juices back into pan cover and cook.

-simmer 15 minutes