BAR MEZZANA Opening 6/1 – Drink these Giannoni wines!

Bar Mezzana (360 Harrison Ave., Boston) – OPENING June 1st!

Look for these wines from Giannoni Selections at Bar Mezzana:

’11 Eugenio Bocchino Barolo “Lu”

’15 Cascina Carrà Rosato “Rosa Thea” (Nebbiolo)

’14 Crealto Grignolino “Marcaleone”

I Clivi “RBL” Spumante

’13 I Clivi Ribolla Gialla

’14 Quantico Etna Bianco

’15 Rado Kocijančič Refosk

’14 Santa Caterina Ligure di Levante Vermentino “Poggi Alti”


How Do You Pomodoro?

It’s not by chance that pasta al pomodoro is Italy’s most beloved dish, offered on most menus throughout the country.  When executed properly it is subtle and refined and yet so simple and satisfying.  Sweet, savory, herbaceous, and spicy – it covers an impressive range of flavors.  There are a million variations of this tomato-based pasta, but the one I make is at its best in August when tomatoes are hitting their stride.  I’m not going to lie, I actually shudder when I hear New Yorkers referring to tomato sauce as gravy.  This recipe is the complete opposite of “gravy” or a cooked sauce; it is more of an aglio-olio-peperoncino recipe with fresh plum tomatoes that have been de-seeded and cored.  In this top ingredients are key because they can’t hide behind a heavy garlic/cooked tomato flavor.  This method is all about showing off the quality of the tomatoes.  So hit the farmer’s market!!

Ingredients (serves four)

600 g plum tomatoes

20 leaves fresh basil

2 fresh peperoncini (or chili peppers)

sale grosso (large grain salt)

olive oil

500 g pasta

Note:  Here in Italy I usually use plum tomatoes from Sicily because they have thin skins, less liquid and seeds, and a concentrated, not overly sweet flavor.  Use what you like best or tomatoes that have similar qualities.



Rinse your tomatoes.

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Slit each tomato so that this incision will become more pronounced with its brief boiling.

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Boil your tomatoes for about two minutes or until you notice the slits becoming more apparent.  (*It is essential to expose the tomatoes to as little cooking as possible so to maintain the utmost freshness of the finished dish.)

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From the boiling pot place your tomatoes in an ice water bath (my ice has melted in this photo!) so to avoid further cooking.

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Carefully remove the skins of the tomatoes, using your original incision to initiate the process.

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Remove all seeds, excess water, and the gelatinous part of the tomato as well as any small stem.  (It doesn’t have to look pretty.)

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Add salt to the tomatoes and then torn basil.  If you have time, refrigerate the tomatoes at this point for about an hour or two to macerate the tomatoes, basil, and salt and then take them out about a half an hour before you use them to let them come to room temperature.

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Slice your garlic thinly and chop your peperoncino, adding both to about four to five tablespoons of oil.  Make sure that your oil covers the contents. Infuse the ingredients over low heat for about three minutes or until you can smell the garlic.  (*A finer dice of the peperoncino will make the finished dish more piccante – also depending on the length of the heating during this step. I try to keep the heating to a minimum so to maintain the freshness of the oil at this stage to keep the flavors light and fresh with just enough garlic and spiciness.)

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My preferred pasta for this dish: Martelli spaghetti from Pisa.  Other favorite pastas:  Setaro, Benedetto Cavallieri, and Rustichella.  (Also De Cecco.  NEVER Barilla.)  Martelli has a ton of flavor on its own – you can taste the sweetness and nuttiness of the grain.  It is toothsome and inviting.

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There is no need to finish the dish over heat in a saucepan – simply combine well the infused oil with the tomatoes and pasta and proceed to plating!  If you can coat the pasta and tomatoes without using ALL of the infused oil, feel free to leave out the remainder if you want to achieve the freshest flavor profile of the finished dish.  At the table be sure to add a few extra leaves of freshly torn basil and a drizzle of olive oil to further enliven the dish.  *Adding a touch of uncooked (uninfused) oil is essential because it gives even more lightness and balance to the dish, perfectly melding cooked and fresh flavors and ingredients.  With one forkful you’ll see that this dish is very much the sum of the quality of its ingredients – fresh, light, and symphonic – so be selective at the farmer’s market!

Eccoci!  Pasta al Pomodoro!  Enjoy it until summer tomatoes disappear!

Primavera a Tavola: Paccheri con Piselli e Basilico


The ingredients: fresh peas, fresh basil, Pecorino Romano, olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it. Simplicity is so satisfying – as with this dish!


Remove the peas from their pods. *(Two pounds of peas will serve four to six people)*

Steam the peas for about three minutes over medium heat – check them occasionally to make sure that you remove them when they are still vibrant green. Place in a ice water bath or run under cold water so to stop further cooking/retain color and texture.

Purée 2/3 of the peas with:

– 2 Tbs shredded Pecorino Romano
– 2 Tbs Olive oil
– 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 8 leaves of basil

Boil the pasta – I love Paccheri as a shape for this dish because they catch the peas and purée inside the opening.  Be sure to reserve some of the cooking liquid from the pasta.

Dilute the purée
with three tablespoons of the water in which the pasta is cooked, of course only after some starch has been released into the water.

In a saucepan, (towards the end of the cooking of the pasta) heat a small amount of olive oil and quickly toss the remaining whole peas in the oil.

Strain the pasta into the saucepan with peas – a bit of the starchy water should still remain in the openings of the Paccheri so to help bind the purée to the pasta. Toss the pasta with the peas briefly and then add the purée, mixing until it’s fully combined over medium heat.

At the table, finish the dish with a sprinkling of shaved Pecorino, freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly torn basil.

Pair this dish with Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo, or Ribolla Gialla.

Buon pranzo o buona cena!!!