Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Mama D's Italian Cookbook" & "Mama D's Old-Fashioned Italian Cooking" - Paesano Pie (meat pie with pasta filling) and Salada Mixte

Date I made these recipes:  October 18, 2015

Mama D's Old-Fashioned Italian Cooking by Giovanna D'Agostino
Published by:  Prentice Hall Press
ISBN:  0-13-548132-5
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Paesano Pie – p. 46-47; Tomato Sauce recipe – p. 79

Mama D's Italian Cookbook by Giovanna D'Agostino
Published by:  Ideals Publishing Corp.
ISBN:  0-89542-623-4; ©1980
Recipe:  Salada Miste – p. 9

It doesn't take much for me to get in the mood for Italian food but given the number of Italian cookbooks I have, it can be a challenge for me to select one(s) from which to cook.  And for whatever reason, I decided to make a couple of dishes by a local legend – Mama D.

Mama D – Giovanna D'Agostino – died in 2009 at age 94 and the Twin Cities' mourned the loss of this local personality as well as her down-to-earth Italian food. The obituary in the Pioneer Press (St. Paul newspaper) summed it up thusly:  "Giovanna D'Agostino – better known as Mama D – fed a generation of University of Minnesota students, Tony Bennett's band and the poor and homeless." 

For years, Mama D ran a sandwich shop near the University of Minnesota's campus  in the Dinkytown neighborhood called Sammy D's, in honor of one of her sons who died.  She later renamed the restaurant Mama D's and continued to feed college students for many, many years, adding more Italian food to her repertoire. 

In a "it's a small world moment," Mama D's son, John, opened Caffe Biaggio in St. Paul, not far from my house, where he continues to serve Mama's favorites.  I need to get back there for their ravioli one of these days, not to mention the "shrine" to Mama D i.e. all the photos and paintings that adorn the walls.

In addition to all her cooking, Mama found time to write two cookbooks – the two I used here – plus a memoir titled – hilariously I'm Mama D – Shut Up and Listen...I Want to Tell You Something.  Sounds just like my grandma!

As to her food, these recipes were hearty but delicious.  Some recipes are repeated between the two cookbooks but you should not having any trouble finding something among the following:  Appetizers and Soups; Salads; Vegetables; Main Dishes; Eggs and Rice; Pasta; Sauces and Fillings; Bread and Pizza and Desserts.

For our own Sunday night repast, I decided on "Paesano Pie" ("Paesano" means countryman—at least that's how we used it in my family), which is really a big meatball made in a pie plate, topped with a pasta mixture.  It was fabulous!  And then I was in a salad mood so I made her "Salada Miste" (mixed salad) with green beans, cubed mozzarella cheese and Genoa salami (substituted for pepperoni) tossed in a vinaigrette which was also fantastic.  That Mama – she knows how to cook!

So just a couple of things:  Mama said to make the "Paesano Pie" in a 10" pie plate and so okay, I put the meat mixture down in the pie plate as directed and that left almost no room for the filling.  And the filling recipe made quite a lot and so what to do?  I didn't want the pie filling to overflow so I decided to put the meat mixture in a 3-quart glass casserole bowl and then put the filling on top leaving plenty of room.  I hate when things spill over in my oven as cleaning that out falls under "least favorite things to do."  I am happy to report that everything cooked perfectly.

Also, Mama loves oregano as it's in the pie, the pie filling and the salad and I must say that my kitchen still smells like an Italian pizzeria!  I suppose you could mix it up and use just basil or even an Italian spice mix if you wanted.

In addition to oregano, the salad recipe called for thinly sliced pepperoni but neither Andy or I are big fans so we opted to use diced Genoa Salami instead.  I asked the deli counter person to cut me just one big, thick slice that I then cubed to match the mozzarella.  And by the way, I normally love cooking with fresh mozzarella but this time around, got a ball that was a little more firm as it tastes better and is less messy in salads.

Finally, I debated about whether to spend the time to make Mama D's sauce or to use jarred (or to make my own family's recipe) as time was running short, but in the end, I decided to stay true to the whole recipe and made Mama's.  And as my grandma would have said, it was "Not-a bad-a!"  She uses basil in hers (as do I) but then also thyme which I quite liked.  The sauce takes about 1 ½ -2 hours to make so plan on leaving time for that.

And that concludes my Italian meal made for no reason at all except I had a hankering for it.  Thanks, "Mama!"

Paesano Pie – serves 4 to 6
For the Tomato Sauce (used in the pie filling)
½ cup oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
6 ounces water (using the tomato paste can as a measure)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

For the Paesano Pie (base)
½ cup Tomato Sauce (see above)
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs ½ cup bread crumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese (for topping)

For the Paesano Filling
½ pound orzo or other small pasta, cooked, rinsed and drained
2 cups Tomato Sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Since you will need the sauce for the pie and the pie filling, start with that first and allow 1.5 to 2 hours for it to simmer.

First, heat the oil in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic; sauté until the onion is transparent.  Add the tomatoes, crushing them in your hand as you add them, and the liquid from the can.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix.  Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

Ann's Note:  The recipe says "makes about 4 cups" but I had just enough – 2.5 cups – to complete this recipe.

Next, make the filling.  Start by boiling the pasta as directed on the box.  Combine the pasta with 2 cups of the sauce, then the rest of the ingredients:  salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and Romano cheese.  Stir well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients for the pie base except for the cheese (used as a topping) and the pie filling:  ½ cup sauce, the ground beef (raw), eggs, bread crumbs, onion, green pepper, garlic, and spices.

Pat the mixture into a greased 10-inch pie plate, covering the bottom and sides evenly.  (Ann's Note:  I feared the filling would not fit as the base took up the entire pie plate so I switched it up and used a glass round casserole instead.)

Place the filling on top of the meat mixture.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella and cover the pie tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes more.  Serve hot.

Salada Miste – serves 4
2 cups cooked string beans
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
½ cup thinly sliced pepperoni (Ann's Note:  we substituted Genoa Salami)
2 clves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon oregano
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons wine vinegar
¼ cup grated Romano cheese (for topping)

Place first five ingredients in a salad bowl.  Season with salt, pepper and oregano.  Toss lightly.  Combine oil and vinegar.  Pour over all ingredients.  Sprinkle Romano cheese on top.

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