Sunday, November 30, 2008


How lovely to find like-minded people, who seem quickly to become friends. So it was with Debbie of Kahakai Kitchen ( , Rachel, The Crispy Cook ( , and Jo of Food Junkie not Junk Food (, my 3 food-blogging friends who, in their time away from the stove, love to read. Please check out their new blog, , where we read and discuss a new book bi-monthly, celebrating it in the way we love best by cooking something inspired by our read.

Our first book was Lily Prior's novel La Cucina, subtitled A Novel of Rapture. We follow our heroine Rosa through the seasons of her life, beginning with the harsh winter she loses her first love Bartolemeo to a blood feud. Rosa purges her soul through her cooking. Who of us has not salved a broken heart with crusty loaves of bread, nibbles of freshly-baked cookies, or pots of braised meats and vegetables? While the spring of her life does not awaken until nearly 15 years later, Rosa meets a kindred spirit in L'Inglese. No longer using her kitchen as catharsis, Rosa enters a period of sexuality matched by her culinary creations. For a light read that is sure to "stir your juices," pick up a copy of La Cucina and discover for yourself how it resolves.

I knew almost immediately what my culinary inspiration would be--not a dish, but an ingredient. The alliterative cacciocavallo cheese was to prove somewhat elusive. In fact, it took trips to 3 different Italian delis in 2 different states before I could lay my hands upon this beautiful, elliptical prize.

Because my heritage is Napolitan and Calabrese, I was somewhat at a loss as to how best to showcase this newly-discovered cheese. After some thought and a bit of research, I decided to go pan-Italian. My first taste of cacciocavallo was as part of a panini comprised of some of my favorite things. The second was a pasta dish. Though neither of them is a Sicilian dish, both were inspired by my discovery of cacciocavallo.


On the eve of the Opening Day of hunting season, I found myself alone to experiment with my Breville Ikon panini maker and my cacciocavallo. My panini was comprised of:
shredded cacciocavallo
sweet soppressata

It was simply a matter of layering the meat and cheese on a ciabatta roll, spooning on some caponata as garnish, and grilling. The panini had salty, sweet, creamy, and crunchy all at once and was delicious with a glass of pinot noir.

Now it was time to get down to some serious use of this wonderful cheese which reminds me of a cross between provolone and asiago. I decided to use one of my favorite pastas--cavatelli--with the Bolognese-style meat sauce I have made since I purchased my copy of The Classic Italian Cookbook by Marcella Hazan back in the early 70's. This incredible meat sauce does not freeze well, so must be used within a few days of making it.

Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style
2 tbs. chopped yellow onion
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs butter
2 tbs chopped celery
2 tbs chopped carrot
3/4 lb lean ground beef (chuck)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cups canned Italian tomatoes (San Marzo is my pick), roughly chopped with their juices

I use my wonderful LeCreuset to make all my sauces.

  • Put the chopped onion in with the oil and butter and saute briefly over medium heat until just translucent

  • Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for about 2 minutes

  • Add the ground beef, crumbling it with a fork; add 1 tsp salt and cook just until the meat loses its raw color; add the wine and turn the heat up to medium high; cook until all the liquid has evaporated

  • Turn the heat back to medium, add the milk and nutmeg and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring frequently

  • Add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly; when the tomatoes start to bubble, turn the heat down to the barest simmer and cook uncovered for 3 1/2 - 4 hours, stirring occasionally

  • Taste and correct for salt

After cooking the fresh cavatelli and topping it with this flavorful ragu, I topped it generously with grated cacciocavallo. A few stirs and it melted beautifully. Along with my new, favorite garlic bread--use roasted garlic with just a bit of butter--I toasted Rosa and L'Inglese and added cacciocavallo to my arsenal of foods of love.


  1. I really enjoyed this post, both your book comments and the two cacciocavallo recipes. I'll have to seek out that cheese myself after seeing how hard you hunted for it.

  2. Hi Arlene. I read Deb's description of the book and it sounds so sexy and romantic. Your dish sounds sexy and romantic. Thank you my friend for a great recipe. I love pannini.

  3. That Paninni lookd delish! I could use that sandwich right now. I'd love to get a paninni press, sounds like you can do so much. Gotta see if I can locate that cheese too.

  4. that panini looks superb - i could eat these anytime!


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