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Grana Padano

Cesare Casella


Having been the chef at the mythic Coco Pazzo and then at Il Toscanaccio in New York City, Cesare has brought success to several of the Big Apple’s Italian restaurants, such as Beppe and the Maremma, where he presently works. The author of books, the host of TV programmes, an expert connoisseur of typical Italian products, he is also the Dean of Italian Studies at the International Culinary Institute in New York.

Egg and Pontorno Dried Pancetta Salad
by Cesare Casella (servez 4)

50 ml extra virgin olive oil
200 g dried Pontorno pancetta
8 g chopped basil
8 g chopped marjoram
4g chopped mint
8 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
160g mesclun, or other soft lettuces, cut into strips 2 cm,
60 g Abbucciato cheese, grated

Place the oil, pancetta, and herbs in a small skillet and place on heat.
Cook to render some of the fat from the pancetta but do not brown.
Crack the eggs into a bowl but do not whisk.
Pour the eggs into the pan and cook, stirring over medium-low heat with a rubber spatula, until the eggs are lightly scrambled and still very soft.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remove pan from heat as soon as necessary to keep the eggs from overcooking.
In a bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing (see recipe below) and add the grated cheese.
Add the eggs and toss into the lettuce.
Season to taste.

For the Dressing
40 ml red wine vinegar
30 ml wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

by Cesare Casella (serves 4)

110 ml extra virgin olive oil
70 g chopped shallot
250 g Italian rice
130 ml white wine
1 ½ to 2 l simmering, seasoned, chicken, vegetable or veal stock
Pinch of zafferano (saffron) stems
Salt and black pepper
80 g grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan add 50 ml olive oil and the shallots.
Cook until softened but not colored, about 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the rice and toast, stirring, until the rice smells toasted and is hot to the touch.
Add the wine and simmer until evaporated.
Add simmering stock to cover the rice (about 300 ml) and simmer, stirring constantly, until the stock has evaporated to the point that the rice appears on the surface.
Add stock to cover the rice (about 300 ml) and continue cooking, stirring, until stock has evaporated to the same degree, 4 to 5 more minutes.
Now add the saffron and stir gently to mix it in.
Add stock to cover (about 300 ml) and continue cooking.
Add about 250 to 350 ml more stock and cook until rice is tender but still has bite in the center and the mixture has movement but is not soupy.
Add more liquid and cook slightly more if necessary; total cooking time is 14 to 17 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and remaining oil to emulsify.
Serve immediately.

Valdarno chicken alla Cacciatora
by Cesare Casella (serves 4)

1 chicken, 1.8 kg, cut into12 pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 ml olive oil, plus extra for finishing
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon, cut in half
3 sprigs rosemary
Pinch red pepper flakes
250 ml red wine
100 g carrots, ½ cent. diced
100 g celery, ½ cent. diced
100 g red onion, ½ cent. diced
40 g dried porcini (that have been reconstituted, roughly chopped; reserve the liquid)
700 ml canned, plum tomatoes with juice; hand-crushed
200 g pitted olives

Soak the dried porcini in 1l water for approximately 1 ½ hours until reconstituted. Remove from liquid and chop roughly. Reserve liquid.
Place the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic.
Place 125 ml oil in a rondeau. Heat until hot enough that a piece of basil or sage sizzles when it hits the hot oil.
Add the chicken pieces to the pan with the garlic; add rosemary and brown all over, setting the garlic on top of the chicken if it starts to burn.
Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken and add the lemon halves.
Add the red pepper, and then the wine, pouring the wine around but not over the chicken.
Cook until the wine reduces by about one-half and the fat separates.
Remove the lemon halves and the chicken. Set chicken aside.
Throw off the fat, leaving a thin film coating the bottom of the pan.
Add the carrots, celery and red onion and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the porcini and cook for 5-10 minutes.
Add the chicken and continue to cook for another 10minutes. If the chicken becomes too dry, add some of the reserved porcini liquid.
Add the tomato and 100 ml water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes and add the olives.
Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
Taste for seasoning and serve the chicken with the sauce and drizzle with extra virgin olive.

Suggested Side Dish