The ultimate unfussy comfort food, these Italian-American classics include spaghetti with clams and baked penne with sausage and creamy ricotta.
Food & Wine
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Mini Calzones Stuffed with Pepperoni, Pesto and Ricotta
Mario Batali thinks everyone should learn to make pizza dough, but he understands the convenience of buying it from your local pizza place. You can stuff calzones with any combination of seasoned ricotta, pepperoni and pesto—or all three, as he does here.
Master cook Jacques Pépin may not be Italian or American, but he does know his way around classics like this one. "When I have leftover cooked meat from a roast or a stew, or even leftover steak," he says, "I often chop it and use it to make stuffing, chili or meatballs like these."
This hearty pasta dish is studded with chunks of Italian sausage and mixed with a quick garlic-infused tomato sauce. It's then topped with dollops of fresh ricotta and a sprinkling of both mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, which form a cheesy layer as the pasta bakes.
Hero sandwiches at the sub shop are usually served on untoasted rolls, but we prefer to brush the bread with olive oil and run it under the broiler for a minute or two. If you like, put a slice of mozzarella on the top half of each before broiling.
"I may never use ground meat in my peppers again," said Fran Parisi, Grace Parisi's mother, when she tried this super-flavorful sausage-stuffed version. Another revelation: Smaller Italian frying peppers are much easier to brown in a skillet than the typical green bell peppers, and they also cook faster.
This eggplant Parmesan is all it should be: delicate slices of fried eggplant nestled in a bright, tangy tomato sauce, layered with gooey fresh mozzarella. The best part is the exceptionally crisp topping, made with dry bread crumbs.
This pasta Bolognese recipe from Grace Parisi features a traditional combination of ground beef, pork, veal and tomato enriched by smoky pancetta. Pair this rich meat sauce with Barbera; it has enough weight and flavor to stand up to the rich meat sauce and acidity to balance the tomatoes.
"I look forward to going to Sicily for many reasons," says Frank Castronovo of his biannual trip to southern Italy. "One of them is because I'm amazed at how many times Frank [Falcinelli] can order linguine con vongole." Their exquisite, supersimple version is packed with garlic and a judicious amount of crushed red pepper. If you prefer, shell the clams before tossing them with their juices in the pasta.
As the child of Italian parents, Tom Valenti recalls a refrigerator permanently stocked with charcuterie, cheese and preserved vegetables like peperoncini, olives and roasted peppers. "My memory swept up all of those ingredients and rolled them up in pizza dough," he says. This hearty stromboli, stuffed with several kinds of Italian meats and cheeses, is easy to reheat or enjoy cold for a late-night snack.