I was at the Metropolitan Market looking for a dinner inspiration and saw that they had lobster tails.  H likes pasta really spicy, so I decided to make a pasta alla Fra’ Diavola (known also as devil sauce).  There are different ways to make this pasta and some require way too much work for my taste.   I like a variation which is simpler to make and less prone to mistakes.   I had a package of pasta called “bucatini”.  This is a very common type in Italy, but a bit more difficult to find here.  It’s a “bigger” sp

Here’re the ingredients for two people (about 1/2 poung of pasta):

  • two small lobster tails (or two big ones – noboby will complain about too much lobster!)
  • couple of fresh tomatoes
  • one can of crushed tomatoes
  • onion (shallots are better)
  • half glass of white wine (the same that you’d be serving)
  • parsley, pepper, salt. extra virgin olive oil
  • spicy pepper

It’s not super quick, but it should take about 25mins for the sauce to be ready.

Step zero:  cut the lobster tails in chunks of about one inch each.  In a different pot start boiling water.

Step one:  in a pan over medium heat add three tablespoon olive oil and the shallots.  When the shallots turn translucent add the lobster chunks.  Let the lobster cook (changing sides every couple of minutes) until the shell turns red.  At this point add the white wine.  This is a good time to add the freshed tomatoes (chopped).

Step two: as the white wine starts reducing add the the crushed tomatoes.  I used a small can for two people.  This dish is not supposed to be overly saucy.  This is also the time to spice up the sauce – add the spicy pepper, salt, black pepper and if you want a bit of other spices.  This is also the time of start cooking the pasta in the boiling water (don’t forget to add salt).  This is how my sauce was looking at this point:

lobster sauce 

Step 3: as the sauce starts boiling again lower the heat to medium/low and let it cook until the pasta is ready (about 10mins).   Drain the pasta (it should be al dente) and mix it with the sauce.  Cook together for about a minute.

Step 4:  you’re done!  Plate the pasta and serve it.

lobster pasta



The other night I came home a little earlier and decided to cook something a little special for Hellai, but I did not want to spend more than 20mins cooking.  I opened the freezer and found that I had:

  • Frozen shrimp (couple of cups)
  • Frozen calamari (couple of cups)
  • Frozen peas (one cup)

In the fridge I had:

  • Fresh tomatoes (one)
  • white wine (half glass)

and in the pantry I had:

  • rustichella d’abbruzzo “cavatelli” (1/2 pound)
  • saffron
  • the usual suspects: olive oil, pepper, garlic and salt

Done!  I had enough for a quick and tasty dish.  I love fresh food, but hey, frozen food is sure great at times!


Step 1 – Start boiling the water in a pot.   After a few mins (let’s say five) get couple of spoons of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and start searing the garlic (one chopped clove).  Wait a minute and add the frozen shrimp and calamari.


Step 2 – In about 5 mins the shrimp and calamari will start to look completely defrosted and releasing water.  This is a good time to add half glass of white wine, the peas and the saffron.  I like to add the fresh chopped tomatoes just a few mins afterwards.  Don’t forget to add some salt and pepper.  By now you should have the pasta cooking.

almost done 

Step 3 – Let the sauce simmer on low heat as you wait for the the pasta to be ready.  A tip on the pasta: in this case I rather lean on having the pasta a little undercooked, since you will want to cooked with the saffron sauce for at least couple of minutes.  This will allow the pasta to really absorb the seafood/saffron flavor of the sauce.

pasta almost done 

Step 4 – You’re done!  Plate the pasta and serve.

final plate



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This seems a little out of season, but it is always a great one.  It seems easy to prepare (and it is on paper), but it require good execution.  The downside is that this dish can easily become very dry and the pasta will stick together…a true disaster.


  • 1 pound of clams
  • 1/2 pound of linguini (see it on Amazon)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
  • a clove of garlic 
  • Salt, pepper and few hot chilli flakes (optional)
  • couple of fresh tomatoes (go organic)
  • italian parsley (optional)
  • half glass of white wine

The easy steps:

Step #0 – Start boiling plenty of water in a pot.  This dish is actually really quick, by the time you get the sauce going you should have the pasta cooking.  I usually start making the sauce as the water starts boiling and I put the pasta in.

Step #1 – In a deeper pan throw in olive oil, chopped garlic and the clams. Cook it over medium heat.  After a few minutes the clams will start opening up and release water.  Here’s a quick tip: take some of the water released by the clam and set it aside, it will be useful later to make sure that the sauce does not get too dry.

The clams

Step #2 – After you save some of the water add the white wine and let it reduce for couple of minutes.  At this point add the fresh tomatoes and season with pepper/salt. Cook for for about three minutes.

Clams with tomatoes

Step #3 – You are about done with the sauce.  This is where you need to make a judgement call on how how dry the sauce is.  If it seems a little dry add some of the clams’ water you saved.  If you do so, make sure you cook it for a minute or so.  The pasta should be done by now and it’s time to blend.  Add the parsley, the chilli flakes and extra pepper.

Blending the pasta 

Step #4 – You are done.  Time to plate!

pasta is ready


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This is probably one of the longest names for a recipe! It’s also very misleading. Usually when you think about “saffron” and “shrimp” you think about something fancy and expensive that you can only get in some sophisticated restaurant.

In this post lets dimistify such belief! This recipe is super quick to make (20mins total) and cheap (I used frozen “quality” ingredients). The result is great!


  • a small package of pasta of saffron pasta – I used half pound of “Rustichella D’Abruzzo Laganelle allo Zafferano”, you can also use different type of pastas (see a few examples at Amazon), but i would reccomend you stick to a long pasta.
  • a cup of frozen peas (organic would be better)
  • half pound of shrimp (the bigger ones)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin)
  • a clove of garlic
  • pepper and salt
  • A bit of butter (i used half spoon but you could use more or less)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine


The basic – add the oil in a nice pan, warm it up and add the chopped garlic.  Let is cooked for a minute or until golden.  At this point add the frozen peas and shrimp (on medium heat).   As soon as you are done, make sure that you get the water for the pasta going.  As mentioned above this is a quick dish.

The basics

Sauce is cooking – after  the shrimp and peas have been cooking for about 5mins it’s time to add the half glass of white wine, black pepper, salt and if you want to spice it up you can also add a few hot chilli pepper flakes.  Let is cook for another 5 mins on low/medium heat (super important – don’t let it dry up!).  At this point you should have the water boiling – start cooking the pasta.

sauce is cooking

Putting it together – after 5 mins you should have both the pasta and the sauce ready (if you have not added butter yet, this is a good time).  Drain the pasta and pour it in the sauce, combine for about a minute over medium heat.

combining the goods

Done – yes.  you are pretty much done.  Time to plate the dish, add some black pepper and serve the dish.

final dish

The dish is officially done.  As mentioned this should not take longer than 20 mins (end-to-end).  It’s a great simple yet sophisticated dish.  I would drink it with a nice dry white wine (chardonnay or pinot grigio).


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If you are in the mood for a good fresh vegetarian pasta with a kick then this pasta should be in your short list of candidates.


It’s not the fastest dish to make. it does take a bit of preparation and good cooking time. I would give it about an hour for a good sauce. More if you have time.

For the ingredients (feeds 2-3 people):

Below the steps to put it together. I usually overlap a few steps to make things quicker. You should do how it would work best for you.

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant. If you don’t “dry” the eggplant you will see that they will not cook properly. I honestly don’t know the chemistry behind this (I should look it up), but empirically speaking it is better to dry them. There are different ways to do it. You can cover the eggplant with rock salt for a few hours. You will see that the salt absorbs the water out of the eggplant. This is probably the best approach, but it is too time consuming so I use a different one. I simply put them on a hot non-stick pan and keep them there for a few mins (about 2 mins each side).

Preparing the eggplant

Step 2: Get the sauce going. This is classic approach, that I have discussed a few times in my previous postings. Start the “soffritto” with the olive oil, chopped onion, slices carrots and celery. In the meantime slice the eggplant that you prepared above. When the soffritto is ready (the onion turns translucent) add the the eggplant to the mix. Stir it well. After couple of minutes add a little a little wine. I use red wine. I have used some balsamic vinegar in the past. If you use wine you just need 1\2 a glass. Couple of pix:

Cucina di Max Cucina di Max - Italian cooking

Step 3: Finishing the sauce. Once the eggplant look good add some of the freshed chopped tomato (it gives it a touch of freshness) and let it cook for two minutes. At this point add the crushed tomatotoes and the spices. Let is simmer it for about 30mins .You could leave it simmering more, up to 45-60mins. Just make sure that it does not get too dry…you could add some water (use the pasta water) to balance it. The sauce is done!

Cucina di Max - Italian cooking

Step 4: Pasta and sauce come together. As the sauce is in the last minutes of cooking you can start boiling the pasta. Once the pasta is done you can just drain it and mix it with the sauce. Cook it together for about a minute and your dish it ready to go!!!

Enjoy it!

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Ready to serve!
Linguini with broccoli and anchovies. I had not cooked this dish for at least two years. The first time I had it was when I was leaving in Lisbon. My friend Michele (from Bolzano) thought me how to make it.

I do agree that this may not be ideal for all taste buds and the reaction for many may be “ugh”. I guess you gonna have to try it and see if you like it… I do!

As many of the recipe I have been posting lately the great thing about this dish is that it takes very little work and it’s done in about 20-30 mins (end-to-end…you can do other thngs in the meatime).

Anyway, let’s get down to business. Here’re the ingredients (for 2-3 people, depending on how hungry their are):

  • 1 box of anchovies
  • 1/2 pound of Linguine (De Cecco, Del Verde or Barilla will do it)
  • Couple of cloves of garlic
  • Chilli flakes
  • 1 pound of broccoli (I used frozen ones)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin)

The steps:

  1. Bring water to boil in a pot.  This is the same pot you’ll use to cook the pasta as well.  Before you forget you should also add salt to the water.
  2. When the water is boiling pour the broccoli.  You need to cook them for about 5 minutes, after the water starts boiling again.
  3. Once the 5 mins are up and the broccoli cooked, take them out and save them in a bowl.  If the broccoli are very big, you can just cut them quickly using a knife.
  4. The water is already boiling and you can put the pasta in.  No worries on the “soffritto” for the pasta, it will just take a few mins.
  5. As the pasta is cooklng we start preparing the anchovies\garlic soffritto.  Warm up a deep sauce pan, add the olive oil and the fine chopped garlic.  Let the garlic cook for a minute or so, until it start looking “gold”.
  6. Add the anchovies and make sure that you stir it so that it almost create a “paste” (see pix below). Keep the heat medium\low.  This is a good time to add a few chilli flakes.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour it in the sauce pan.  This is also the time to add back the broccoli as well.
  8. Stir everything well together for a minute over medium heat.
  9. You are done..just need to plate it and add some pepper and fresh virgin olive oil.

Enjoy your dish and let us know how it goes!

anchovies and garlic  all starts coming together

Penne alle zucchine

July 30, 2006

I have not had pasta wich zucchini for a long time. It’s really fresh and light. Ideal as a summer dish. Added bonus: it’s super easy and quick.

Pasta con zucchine
Ingredients (for 2 people):

  • One big zucchini (or two smaller ones). Chopped.
  • 3 fresh tomatoes (chopped)
  • onion (chopped)
  • olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • salt, pepper (at wish)
  • a bit of chilli pepper (depending on your spicy tollerance level)
  • 2 cups of penne (De Cecco is reccomended, Barilla will do it)

Here’re the easy steps:

  1. In a sauce pan start with the oil and the onion, medium heat.
  2. When the onion starts to become translucent add the zucchini (pix)
  3. When the zucchini start cooking (also becoming lightly translucent) add the fresh tomatoes. The key is to not overcook the zucchini, otherwise you’ll end up with a zucchini puree! If in doubt lean toward keeping the zucchini. Check out this pix for reference.
  4. The tomatoes don’t need to cook too much. It may take 3-4mins. You don’t want to overcook them.
  5. Spice it up…time to add some salt, fresh pepper and if you like a spicy kick you can add either chilli flakes or even better use the fresh chillis.
  6. You are done with the sauce!
  7. In the meantime you should have started cooking the penne on a different pot with lots of water. Drain the pasta and pour it in the sauce pan, bring the sauce and pasta together, over medium heat, for about a minute (don’t forget to stir it a few times).
  8. Serve in a plate, sprinkle some fresh pepper and enjoy! (pix)

Let me know how it goes!

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