Escape To New York and Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu – Inspired By Pasta Bought From Eataly and Of course ITALY!

Chelsea Area, NYC

The Flatiron district, NYC

I escaped to New york City for 24 hours this week to soak up some much-needed cosmopolitan energy and culture. Being stuck in a provincial town as I am, I need to get away to satisfy that part of my that longs for something other than fields of cows, unexciting restaurants (an understatement!), and generic big box clothing and food stores. To have such a wonderful city so close by is a glorious comfort when I need that jolt of stimulation.

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

The Flatiron Building at the intersection of 5th Ave & Broadway (completed in 1902)

This trip was planned around not much more than where to have breakfast and where to have dinner while I visited my friend Bird on the Upper West Side. The worst thing you can do in a city like this when it comes to food is to wander the streets and hope you hit on something fabulous. This is a bad approach when it comes to any city, and yes, while it is true that you can stumble upon something great, you are more than likely to end up somewhere a little disappointing or lacking in one way or another.

Balthazar Bakery in Soho

Balthazar Bakery in Soho (established in 1997 and going wildly strong ever since!)

I lived in Manhattan for 8 years and have been visiting it ever since, and my friend has lived there over 20 years, so between the two of us the only problem we have is deciding between the great places we know and the great places we have heard about that are new. We settled on doing a bit of both, having coffee and sticky buns at Balthazar’s in Soho, and eating dinner at the pizza place in Eataly in the Flatiron District. I had never been to the infamous Balthazar’s and I wanted to revisit Eataly (This giant marketplace is the result of the collaboration between two rock stars in the world of food, chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich – press here to read about my last Eataly visit) to buy pasta and see how the pizza there compared to all of the wonderful pizza I ate in Italy (click here for that story!) last year.

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Across from the Flatiron is lovely Eataly; one of my destinations this past monday

Suffice is to say that the coffee and pastry from Balthazar’s on Spring Street was divine and I am in shock as to know how I had never been there before? In between lunch and dinner was spent helping my friend shop for clothes in the cool boutiques in Soho before hopping on the R train for my Italian fix at Eataly.

Lovely pasteries to devour with coffee from Balthazar's

Lovely pastries to devour with coffee from Balthazar’s

With time to kill before Pizza I took a gastronomic stroll through the many sumptuous displays of merchandise on offer in Eataly’s Market. I bought some great dried pasta from a company called Rigorosa di Gragnano which hails from the town of Grangnano in the province of Naples. The pasta variety I choose was bucatini, which looks like a thick spaghetti but has a tiny hole running through the center. It is extruded through bronze dies giving the pasta a rough texture which is marvelous for sopping up thick sauces and has a lovely toothsome bite. Of course the next day at home (last night) I had to cook it with just such a sauce, and it was heavenly (recipe below!). This pasta was really great and so worth it ($4.80 for 17.6 oz). My next visit will include more than 1 measly package!

Bucantini

Bucatini pasta by Rigorosa di Gragnano

I also found a pear juice, Succo di Pera, that I had not seen since being in Italy last year, and even thought it was a woefully ridiculous price for a bottle of juice (nearly $7!) I had to buy one as it was the drink my daughter ordered every time we were in an enoteca or cafe  (Which was quite often I’m happy to report). You should have seen her delighted face when I pulled it out of my bag when I arrived home. One would think I gave her permission not to do homework for a week!

Succo di pera Foto,  Succo di pera

Eating pasta in Eataly was delightful. The restaurant was located between the rows of dried pasta and the bakery area of the market. You still got the exciting buzz from the whole place but it felt intimate and cozy at our table (and our server Francesca was adorable!)

Getting rrady for Pizza in Eataly

Getting ready for Pizza in Eataly (the freshly baked bread comes to your table in neatly wrapped parcels)

 The pizza is classic Neapolitan style from their brick ovens, made with fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes. My pizza was scattered with artichokes, black olives and mushrooms, and, as big as it was, I ate the entire pie without a modicum of guilt!

Eataly

Eataly

I returned thinking what I always think when I leave Manhattan: it was too short a trip. However I cannot even think about complaining as I am so lucky to have the chance to go there as often as I do. Stayed tuned for more vicarious visits to this wonderful city!

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu

Wildly Good Bucatini al Ragu (Dinner last night)

__________________________________________

Recipe for Bucatini al Ragu (serves 6)

You will need:

1 1/2 lbs sausage meat (I used a mild Italian chicken sausage, but you can use any sausage you like; a mild, sweet or spicy Italian pork sausage would work fantastic too), casing removed and broken into bite-sized pieces (you can break it straight into your pan as you cook this dish)

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, small dice,

2 celery ribs, including leaves, small dice,

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped,

3 tbs tomato pasta concentrate

42 oz of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes (3 14 0z can or 1 1/2 28oz cans OR 1190 grams)

1 1/2 cups veggie or chicken broth (or bouillon cube and water – my bouillon cubes by Rapunzel are large so I only used 1/2)

1 tsp sea-salt (more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)

1/2 to 1 tsp pepper flakes (optional, but great addition!)

1 lb bucatini pasta (spaghetti will also work)

Method:

* About 5 minutes before you turn off the sauce, put the pasta water on and cook according to instructions. Before draining pasta, scoop out at least 1 cup of the water and reserve to add to your finished sauce if need be*

1 – Put large pot or deep saute pan (mine is 3″) on medium heat and add the oil. add the onions, celery and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon when it is all in the pan. Cook for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking up meat into smaller pieces as it cooks.

cook sauce

cook sauce

2 – Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and broth (or water & bouillon cube) to pan and turn heat up. Bring to a bubble, then turn down to a simmer (it should still “tremble” on top slightly). Add the salt, pepper flakes (if using), and several grinds of black pepper and stir. Cover with lid and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off sauce and taste for further addition of salt and pepper. Let it sit while pasta is cooking.

cook pasta

cook pasta

3 – Right before or right when you turn off your sauce, cook the pasta. When it is cooked, add drained pasta (not rinsed and remembering to reserve some pasta cooking water) to the sauce and stir. Toss everything together gently. Add some of the reserved pasta water if you want to thin the sauce.

Add pasta adn stir gently

Add pasta and stir gently

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

serve with Parmiagiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if you have it

Serve in shallow bowls or big dinner plates with extra pepper flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano if you so desire.

 

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