Thursday, February 28, 2013

"The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook" - Rova and Ernie Borgnine's Pevronatta a la Borgnine (ragu of sausage and peppers on pasta)

Date I made this recipe:  February 24, 2013 (Academy Award night)

The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook – Barbara, Frank & Friends by The Affiliates Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical Center Rancho Mirage, CA
Published by:  The Affiliates Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical Center Rancho Mirage, CA
© 1996
Recipe:  Tova and Ernie Borgnine’s Pevronatta a la Borgnine (Pasta with Peppers) – p. 166

Tonight is Oscar night and if you’ll forgive me, I just have to sing the “Oscar Song” from TV’s The Odd Couple.  Ready?  “Once there was a man named Oscar.  Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.  And he turned on his best friend. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. Oscar.  Oscar.  Aw-ah-ah-ah!”  Thanks, folks, I’m here all week….  (For those of you who are TV buffs, this is a song sung by Felix Unger, the biggest neat-freak on the planet, played actor by Tony Randall, to the biggest slob on the planet, Oscar Madison, played by Jack Klugman.  Both actors also stared in many films; Jack is best known for his role as a juror in 12 Angry Men.)

At any rate, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to sing that “song” and if you want to relive the hilarious moment, you can find it on YouTube under “Oscar Song Odd Couple” or under “Felix the Calypso Singer.”  Priceless.

So this, of course, put me in the mood to pull out a cookbook by another singer, one possibly just a tich more famous than Felix Unger – Frank Sinatra.  (But by the by, actor Tony Randall was also a very good singer.)  Frank and his wife, Barbara, filled this book with recipes from their celebrity friends – actors, singers, songwriters and even politicians.

Many of you may not know that in addition to being one of the most famous and memorable singers in history, “Ol Blue Eyes”/”Chairman of the Board” also acted and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the film, From Here to Eternity, starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr (The King and I), Donna Reed and countless others.  Set in Hawaii during WWII, this story showcases of all things, boxing and an Army company’s boxing tournament.  Naturally, there has to be some sex and women thrown in for good measure and so enter Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed!  Deborah ends up having an affair with Burt Lancaster and the movie’s sexy scene involving the two of them kissing on a beach in the surf in Hawaii (and yes, there is a real “From Here to Eternity” beach and I’ve been there) set people’s hair on fire when the movie came out (1953) and from that point on, I don’t think people cared a fig about the boxing portion of our program.  Honestly – people were shocked to see Deborah Kerr in that hussy role and weren’t too thrilled about wholesome Donna Reed’s It’s a Wonderful Life’s role as a prostitute, either.  Now of course, everything is far game and a scene like the beach one gets a “yawn” – maybe. (By the by, in the movie, Deborah Kerr was married to Captain Dana Holmes played by actor Phil Ober.  In real life, Phil Ober was married to actress Vivian Vance who played Ethel Mertz opposite Lucille Ball’s Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy.)

Frank’s role was that of Angelo Maggio, a company boxer. Frank was nominated for and won Best Supporting Actor for this movie and Donna Reed won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Alma, the prostitute.  Hollywood does indeed love its down-and-out characters.

Frank’s other film roles ran the gamut from tense (Manchurian Candidate) to twinkle toes (Guys and Dolls in which Marlon Brandon co-stared in a singing role.  Yes, singing role).  And between his acting, singing and Viva Los Vegas, Baby lounge acts, he managed to meet just about everybody including fellow actor, Ernest (Ernie) Borgnine, who just passed away this year.  While many of you may remember him from McHale’s Navy, the Poseidon Adventure and yes, he was even in From Here to Eternity, I fell in love with him in the movie, Marty.  Ernie won the Academy Award for that role, beating out his friend, Frank Sinatra, who was nominated for his role in the movie, The Man With the Golden Arm.  It’s kind of scary, isn’t it, how all these roles and actors connect?

When I looked through this book, I was looking for someone who, if they hadn’t won an Oscar, was a movie actor.  Many qualified (some, like politicians, didn’t) but Ernie and his wife Tova, beat out the other contenders because I liked him and because I liked this recipe.

Ernie – born Ermes Effron Borgnino – used a slightly different variation on the Italian word, perperonata for this recipe but the dish’s result is the same:  it’s a dish of sautéed peppers, onions and in this case, sweet Italian sausage and ground sirloin.  It is very rich and hearty and good.  But be warned, the full recipe, serving 4-6, calls for 10 green peppers.  I made half the recipe and used only a little green pepper (not my favorite) and had a lot left over. 

I got this dish done just in time for the Oscars telecast and that was a good thing because I didn’t want to miss out on seeing who took the golden guy home this year.  I am sadly behind on viewing new movies but pride myself on having a decent DVD library of the old classics starting our friends Frank and Ernie and more!

Pevronatta a la Borginine (Pasta with Peppers) – serves 4 to 6 (Note, I made half the recipe)
4 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
10 green bell peppers, diced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 to 1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
Chopped parsley or parsley flakes to taste
½ pound mushroom, sliced
1 (16 ounce) jar Italian-seasoned tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
1 (16 ounce) package pasta (Ann’s Note:  choose a pasta like Rigatoni or Penne that can hold up to a heavier sauce)

Sauté garlic in oil in skillet.  Add onion and cook until lightly browned.  Stir in bell pepper and cook, turning frequently, until softened.  In separate skillet, sauté sausage and beef, stirring to crumble, until cooked and no longer red in center. Combine meat mixture with sautéed vegetables.  Add parsley, mushrooms and tomato sauce to meat mixture.  Stir in red wine.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions.  Drain well.  Serve sauce over pasta.  Serves 4 to 6.

Chicken wings or drummettes can be substituted for sausage and beef.

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