Posted by: francescacoviello | November 17, 2010

Villa Giusi

While my friends and classmates were tackling the sights of various European cities, I spent my fall break in one location. After a stressful week of midterms, I packed up my belongings for 10 days of relaxation overlooking the breathtaking views of Positano. The train to Naples left early friday morning, where a driver was waiting at the platform to transport me to the gorgeous destination. He dropped me off at the Le Sirenuse (one of the top rated hotels in the world) and I was welcomed by my boyfriend, who had arrived in Positano the day before spending a week in Tuscany. This wasn’t my first time winding through the steep, narrow roads along the Tyrranhean Sea. I had celebrated my sweet sixteen in Positano 5 years earlier with my two best friends, and knew the experience would be just as memorable, but much different.

Positano, Amalfi Coast – Italy

We walked down hill, then up several flights of hidden stairs to reach the entrance with a ceramic plaque that read “PRIVATE PROPERTY.” It felt invigorating to be back, especially for an extended period of time. The best part was where we would be staying – Villa Giusi. The rest of my boyfriend’s family met in Positano for the week so his mother rented the most amazing Villa for 7 people directly looking at the church of Santa Maria Assunta, located right in the center of town. This luxurious residence can be spotted in many post cards and photographs of Positano, just look for the white stucco and large cactus near the bright Duomo! Since the high season was coming to a close, the cooler weather reflected the decrease in population but was beneficial for us with less people and more quiet restaurants. It was much warmer in Amalfi than in Florence, and when the sun was shining we were able to appreciate the terrace.

During the nine days spent in Villa Giusi I was able to utilize the quaint Italian kitchen and arange full meals almost every night. Cooking for an entire family was my favorite part of the vacation. Each meal was complimented by delicious wines, which were enjoyed next to the cozy fireplace. Every afternoon we walked around, usually having lunch on the beach in between shopping for souvenirs and groceries. At night, we played dominoes until the fire died or ventured out to bring a selection gelati home. For Debbie’s birthday we spent the day in Capri and had a wonderful lunch at the Grand Hotel. There were many remarkable meals at the most famous restaurants in Positano, but first I would like to share some of my personal recipes, which were prepared and relished at Villa Giusi.

Gramma Coviello’s Italian Meatballs

It was a pleasure to share such a hearty, sentimental dish, especially ON my Grandmother’s 80th birthday. Since I couldn’t be in New York to celebrate with my family, I honored this special woman by spending time in the kitchen to re-master her staple dish. There are a few key elements, along with years of practice, that make Gramma Coviello’s meatballs so uniform and buttery, but I have added a few things to create my own rendition. (I also don’t taste the raw meat throughout the process like Gramma does – even though she insists thats the only way to KNOW how much more flavor or seasoning to add – but feel free to do so, that would make her proud).

(PLEASE NOTE: My cooking style is improvisational. I usually taste as I go, so I apologize if the measurements aren’t precise. But I PROMISE the results will still be delectable.)

*The proportions depend on the amount of people cooking for, but it’s always better to have more than less!

YOU WILL NEED:

  • About 3 Lbs of Ground Beef (Preferably beef CHUCK – in Italy they ground up a few different cuts of beef for us and they still tasted great, but CHUCK has a higher fat content which makes for a really smooth texture)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Milk
  • Unseasoned Breadcrumbs
  • Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Dehydrated Onions (This way the meatballs will stay consistent, never too wet/sweet, but fresh onions are fine too)
  • I put 5 cloves of minced garlic and a little parmesan cheese in mine – (Gramma prefers to keep it simple)

IN THE MEANTIME – The Marinara sauce, aka the GRAVY should be cooking on the stove. This is a very basic sauce, but needs time to simmer.

  • 2 to 3 large cans of Whole Peeled (San Marzano) Tomatoes
  • 1 can of Tomato Sauce, 1 can of Tomato Paste
  • Head of Garlic
  • Good Olive Oil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper, Sugar

Pour the peeled tomatoes into a large dish and break up the pieces using two forks. Light stove and place a large saucepan on the burner.

  1. Add a layer of olive oil to a med-low heat pot
  2. Place 6-10 cloves of garlic into the hot oil (depending on how much you like garlic)
  3. Let cook for a few minutes, turning each clove to get an even golden color
  4. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, be aware of the oil splatter
  5. Stir, while turning up the heat and adding the seasoning
  6. Use more parsley than oregano, only add sugar if the salt/pepper needs balance
  7. Combine the tomato sauce and paste to thicken, use water to rinse the remaining out of the cans.
  8. Cover, then reduce heat to a simmer, stir regularly.
  9. Increase seasoning amount if desired.

Back to the Meatballs…

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Mix ground beef together in large bowl, forming a well in the center
  2. Crack eggs into well then pour about a cup of milk
  3. Sprinkle 4 or 5 hand-fulls of bread crumbs over the top
  4. GET MESSY. Use your hands to combine the ingredients
  5. Make a layer of parsley to cover the top, and use the same amount of dehydrated onion (half a cup or more of each)
  6. Add a generous amount of salt & pepper
  7. Mush the meat and ingredients together until well incorporated
  8. Set aside to refrigerate for 30 minutes
  • The consistency should be really creamy, not too dry from the bread crumbs but not too soggy from the milk. I usually add a little more of each as I mix everything together depending on the texture, but it should feel soft instead of lumpy.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • There should be plenty of onion and parsley blended when rolling each meatball into the size of a golf ball.
  • Lay out two cookie sheets covered in tinfoil and place each meatball a half inch-inch apart.
  • Place the trays equal parts from each other and the burners into the oven, cook for about 7 minutes.
  • Individually Flip the meatballs then switch racks to continue cooking for another 7 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and add the meatballs to the Marinara sauce.
  • Make sure there is salt and olive oil in the water before adding the pasta. (Usually one box is enough, but two is safe for second helpings/leftovers.)
  • COOK the pasta, either vermicelli, linguine fine or regular linguine. Butter the pasta after straining, save some of the starch water to thicken the sauce, then add some Marinara to the pasta.
  • Serve individually. Always put extra sauce on top of the meatballs and pasta, and don’t forget the parmigiano cheese!!

BUON APPETITO !

More Recipes:

 

Homemade Pesto Sauce in the Making

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A large bunch of Fresh Basil
  • Pine Nuts (can be dry toasted for extra flavor)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parmigiano Cheese
  • Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper

A food processor is essential in making Pesto, but can be done without it. I made this batch by hand, which gives more of a rustic feel, definitely use a food processor if you have one!

WHAT TO DO:

  1. Put basil leaves inside of the food processor, pulse blade
  2. Add pine nuts and a few cloves of peeled garlic
  3. Pour in olive oil while blending
  4. Sprinkle cheese, salt and pepper then blend until smooth.

The sauce should be mostly green, we didn’t have enough basil so the garlic flavor was much stronger than the normal pesto. I also added sautéed cheery tomatoes for extra color, then tossed with farfalle pasta.

Farfalle with Fresh Pesto & Tomato

 

Garlicky Broccoli Rapini & Chili Flakes

For the Broccoli Rabe, I cooked a pasta dish with crumbled sausage and orchiette pasta, which was not photographed – but here is how it’s done:

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • Italian Sausage – 3 to 4 large links
  • Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)
  • Garlic
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Olive Oil
  • Orchiette, or any time of “shell” pasta

WHAT TO DO:

  1. While the water is boiling for the pasta, heat a separate frying pan on med-high
  2. Slice open the sausage casing, removing the meat from inside
  3. *DO NOT ADD OIL. Using your fingers, crumble the bits into the hot pan
  4. Make sure the pan is covered, let cook on one side until golden
  5. With a wooden spoon, move the pieces around until they are brown
  6. Add minced garlic and let sauté in the juices from the meat
  7. Place cleaned Broccoli into the pan, drizzle with olive oil to reduce
  8. While stirring the mixture, sprinkle in salt, pepper and red chili flakes
  9. Drain Pasta, then add the ingredients together, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

 

Ravioli with Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce and White Truffle Essence

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • Packaged/Fresh Ravioli – Either Spinach, Mushroom or plain Ricotta Cheese
  • Flour and Butter (for the Roux)
  • Dehydrated Porcini Mushrooms
  • (The mushrooms were packaged with dried Garlic and Parsley, try to find something similar)
  • Carton of Cream – Medium or Heavy (Whole Milk can substitute)
  • (in Italy they have Porcini Panna – Porcini flavored cream, so we used some of that as well)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Parmigiano cheese
  • TRUFFLE OIL

WHAT TO DO:

**The porcini mushrooms must be re-hydrated, this means they should be cooked in 2 cups of water and a tbs of olive oil for about 25 minutes before adding to the sauce. They will create a broth in the water, which can be gritty but should be used for flavor, so don’t get rid of it after the mushrooms freshen up.

  1. Begin by forming a roux in a large saucepan. Melt the butter, then add the flour and cook until the smell of flour is gone
  2. This is used to thicken the sauce – whisk in room temperature cream/milk  – (enough to make a sauce) 2-3 cups or more
  3. Increase the heat, constantly stirring until the mixture has reached a “sauce” consistency – the liquid should stick to the wooden spoon
  4. Season with salt & pepper, then add the mushrooms to the mix with a few ladles of the porcini broth
  5. The ravioli cooks in no time, so as soon as it’s ready incorporate the sauce.
  6. Drizzle with TRUFFLE OIL, which is very potent so a little can go a long way – but feel free to use as much as desired.

ENJOY!!

 

Villa Giusi

 

The majority of Restaurants in Positano are extremely touristy, especially since the town itself is based on tourism. We ate at a few notable places during our stay, which was at the end of season. Most restaurants are not open yearly, except for La Tagliata – which is known for it’s view overlooking the entire coast. It is a family run business, that serves family style. You never have to worry about ordering because they bring platters of delicious food for each course, until you can’t possibly eat anymore. They begin with antipasti – grilled vegetables, cheeses, eggplant parmigiano, sauteed spinach, bread, etc. Then the pasta – homemade gnocchi, ravioli, marinara sauce galore. Save room for the entree – grilled meats, which are prepared over a coal grill in the dining room, lamb, chicken kabobs, steak, and a seafood platter as well. The dessert will put you over the edge, but you can’t deny tasting the dolci!

La Donna Rossa is another amazing restaurant way up there in the mountains. Much more formal dining, perfect for a special occasion. Another family owned joint, with great hospitality and the most amazing bruschetta in the world! I had the bean soup, which was simple yet full of strong garlic and rosemary scents. The chicken marsala literally melted in my mouth, and the panna cotta for dessert was outstanding. A must, for anyone visiting Positano!

Down at the beach, there are several restaurants and cafe’s to dine at. Le Tre Sorelle was the only place we ever at ate.. twice in a row. The service was friendly and happy to accommodate, but the food was what kept us coming back. This is the perfect restaurant to enjoy fresh seafood while watching the sun glisten off the ocean water. I highly recommend the calamari fritte, zucchini fritte, eggplant rollitini t for starters. The pasta with mussels in garlic and oil was  fabulous (try it in the red sauce too), and the variety of pizza’s did not disappoint.

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