February 19, 2019
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Hit cookbook HBO drama has been turned into a recipe collection for the whole Family

An episode of the hit HBO drama “The Sopranos” is a lot like a memorable meal at a quality restaurant.

There’s the antipasto (those little early scenes that set up the action), the entree (the meat of the episode) and the dessert (those quirky touches that viewers take away with them). There’s the spicy (the omnipresent threat of violence) and the sweet (Tony Soprano’s scenes with daughter Meadow). There’s a lot of wine (and whining), and, of course, more than a little red sauce. In the background, there’s even a little Sinatra or some opera.

On the show about a New Jersey “waste management executive” and his relatives and associates, many of the family (and Family) discussions in the series take place around the dinner table. So, bada-bing, it’s only natural that, as an example of corporate synergy at its finest, Warner Books has published “The Sopranos Family Cookbook” (200 pages, $29.95).

The cookbook is reputedly compiled by Artie Bucco, Tony’s childhood pal, whose original restaurant, Bucco’s Vesuvio, mysteriously burned in the first episode of “The Sopranos.” (The book is actually written by television journalist Allen Rucker and veteran Italian cookbook writer Michele Scicolone.)

Summing up the mission of the book, Bucco writes, “If you are one of us, either by birth or in spirit, you know that food is not just fuel for the Italian body. … Food is family, tradition, birth, confirmation, marriage, sickness, death – life itself.”

Likewise, food is at the center of “The Sopranos,” whether it’s Christopher talking sausages with a Czech gangster or Junior’s big-mouthed girlfriend taking a cream pie to the face.

Taken at its face, the cookbook is a mouth-watering collection of Neapolitan-Avellinese recipes, with their origins in southern Italy. There’s pasta, salads, pizza and desserts. Ingredients include beans, vegetables, beef, eggs, seafood and chicken, but, not surprisingly, no duck.

Most home cooks should be able to whip up any of these appetizers, entrees and desserts. Just follow the recipes, and you’ll have it made, man. Go ahead. Take a whack at it.

But “The Sopranos Family Cookbook” goes further, sandwiching the recipes in between Sopranos-related chapter headings.

There’s Uncle Junior’s memories of family dinners in Newark’s Little Italy: “Mama always cooked. Every dinner was something. In the winter, it would be pasta fazool or ‘shcarole and beans. In the summer she’d switch to giambott’ (with seasonal vegetables) or stuffed peppers. We ate like elephants, I tell you, but never got fat, except for Mama, of course. And no one died of too much cholesterol or some such crap.”

Tony’s sister Janice reminiscences about the Soprano Sunday supper table: “Daddy, for fun, would start in on the food. If the pork shoulder was overcooked (as always – Ma was terrified of trichinosis), he’d hold up a piece and announce today’s special -“Particle Board a la Livia.” Ma would say it’s the only safe way to eat pork in this day and age, which Daddy would take as an indictment of his retail meat business, and the fur would fly.”

Tony gives grilling tips, while Charmaine Bucco discourses on party planning. Dr. Melfi examines “Rage, Guilt, Loneliness and Food.” There’s even Christopher’s list of favorite mob movie food scenes (his No. 1, in “Public Enemy” when James Cagney stuffs a half a grapefruit in Mae Clark’s face) and Bobby Bacala’s style tips for heavy eaters (“A colorful shirt that is meant to be worn tail out. Both the Hawaiians and the Mexicans make a good one.”)

So, for fans of the series or for those who savor manicott’ or fazool, prozhoot’ or sfogliatelli’, “The Sopranos Family Cookbook” is an offer they shouldn’t refuse. Mangia, mangia!

Rigatoni with Broccoli

Makes 4 servings

1 bunch broccoli (about 11/4 pounds)

Salt

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Pinch of crushed red pepper

8 ounces rigatoni

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Trim the broccoli and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Bring 4 quarts of cold water to a boil in a large pot. Add the broccoli and salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Scoop out the broccoli with a small sieve. Reserve the cooking water in the pot.

Pour the oil into a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic is lightly golden. Add the broccoli and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is very soft.

Meanwhile, bring the water back to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is not quite tender. Scoop out about 1 cup of the cooking water and set it aside. Drain the rigatoni and add it to the skillet with the broccoli. Add the reserved cooking water and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more.

Sprinkle with the cheese, toss, and serve immediately.

Pizza

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 envelope active dry yeast

1 1/3 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

31/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

For the sauce:

2 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or one 28-ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt

4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

For the topping:

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a small bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, or until the yeast is creaming. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl, combine 31/2 cups of the flour and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to oil the top. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until it doubles, about 11/2 hours.

Oil a 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. With your fist, flatten the dough. Place the dough in the center of the pan and stretch and flatten it out to fit. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1 hour, until puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

To make the sauce, in a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, garlic, oil, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the basil. Let the sauce cool.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

With your fingertips, firmly press the dough to make dimples at 1-inch intervals all over the surface. Spread the sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Arrange the slices of cheese on top. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Drizzle with oil. Return the pizza to the oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned. Cut into squares and serve hot.

Eggs in Purgatory

Makes 4 servings

1 garlic clove, lightly crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups canned tomato puree

4 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces, or a pinch of dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 large eggs

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

In a medium skillet, cook the garlic in the oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the tomato, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened. Discard the garlic.

Break an egg into a small cup. With a spoon, make a well in the tomato sauce. Slide the egg into the sauce. Continue with the remaining eggs. Sprinkle with the cheese. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, or until the eggs are done to taste. Serve hot.

Correction: The amount of salt was missing from the ingredient list in the Pizza recipe from "The Sopranos Family Cookbook" feature in Wednesday's edition. The correct amount is 2 teaspoons of salt.


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