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



I love this dish.  It’s fundamentally the way good fish is supposed to be cooked:  in the oven, light on spices and with potatoes on the side.  No creams, no heavy rubs, nothing that would spoil the flavor of good fresh seafood.

As result the list of ingredients is short, the recipe is very simple and the bill for the fish high 🙂

Ingredients (about 6 people):

  • 2 pounds of fresh halibut
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • salt, black pepper, a bit of thyme
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • few black olives (use Kalamata or some other “salty” version)

The steps:

1.  Chop the potatoes in smaller chunks (I do something along the line of a 1/3in by 1/3in – no need to be too precise).  I wash them and add 5 tablespoon of olive oil, black pepper, salt (don’t be shy) and the white wine.  Mix everything and stick the pan in the oven at 400.  The potatoes take longer than the fish to cook and you want to give them an head start.


2.  After about 10 mins I usually take the potatoes out, give it a good stir and add the fish (with salt, pepper and thyme).  If I have lots of people for dinner and the fish is big I usually tend to already cut it in individual portions.  It requires a smaller pan, but that’s not the main reason.  It actually cooks faster.  A rule that someone mentioned to me was 10mins for each each of fish (head to tail).  When I cook individual slices (of about an inch each) I usually go for 20mins.  This is a good time to also add the olives.

3.  After about 20 mins the dish is ready!

halibut with potatoes 


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Summer is in full swing in Seattle and it’s great time for “summer food”.

Couple of days ago I prepared a grilled pranw salad.  It takes about 5 mins and it very tasty!


  • 1/2 pound of prawns (medium size)
  • half bell pepper
  • a few slices of chopped hot chilli pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil  (3-4 tablespoons)
  • garlic
  • salt, pepper

Quick steps:

1 – In a small bowl add the olive oil, chopped garlic and chopped chilli peppers.


2 – On the bbq start cooking the shrip, it really takes a few mins (couple of mins each side)

bbq  cooked

3 – Now mix the chopped tomatoes, bell pepper and olive oil mix.


4 – time to serve!



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The summer is finally here in the Pacific Northwest…that means that the temperature is above 70 and wild salmon is fairly cheap. So yesterday a BBQ was in order!

We went for a different spin of salmon on the grill and cooked it “al cartoccio”.

In Italian “al cartoccio” refer to the practise of cooking something wrapped in foil (or baking paper). There is “pasta” al cartoccio, there is “fish” al cartoccio. Now that I think about I have never seen any meat-based food being cooked using this technique. The one think that I like about it – especially for seafood – is that keeps the fish moist.

The list of ingredients is fairly flexible. The basic idea is to get a big piece of fish (or small for that matter) and a few veggies to keep it “fresh” (think tomatoes, leeks, fennel, onions, etc…). My list from yesterday:

  • Salmon fillet (i believe it was close to two pounds)
  • one tomato
  • red onions
  • few slices of lemon
  • italian parsley (you could also add time and/or dill)
  • some olive oil (extra virgin – about 3 tablespoons)
  • white whine (about 1/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper
  • Foil

The steps are super easy.

1. Take a big piece of foil and create a “baking pan” look-a-like shape, lay the salmon fillet on top of it and add all your ingrendients (veggies should be chopped).

step1 step1b

2.  Take another piece of foil and properly cover the fish, like in the picture below.


3.   Time to cook it!  In this case is super easy…just cook it on the bbq!


4.  Now the tricky part is the cooking time.  The good news is the the wine, olive oil, veggies and cartoccio-effect will keep the salmon very moist.  I usually let it cook for about 25-30 mins.   The result is usually great for couple of reasons (1) when you break the cartoccio the vapor comes out and there is a big WOW effect (2) it is actually very good and fresh.


Keep it mind that you can use this technique for much smaller portions.  In fact, I would advise to do so and possibly go for simple portions.  The WOW factor will be even bigger as each guest can open their own cartoccio!


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If you like food and you are in my region (Abruzzo) then there is one restaurant you MUST visit: L’Angolo da Filippo (also known as “Angolino” – “the little corner”).

The restaurant is one of my town institutions. It was founded in 1891 and it’s rocks! Wow!

Over the course of the years the menu has changed, the restaurant was extensively remodelled, but it always carries a great of “tradition” forward.

I went there with friends a few days before I left and I took pix of what we ate.

We started off with a round of cold appetizers (mostly carpaccios):

appetizer one  appetizer two

followed by a round of warm appetizer:

appetizer warm warm appetizer two clams 

It’s easy to spot the prawns and clams in the pix.  The middle one is a lot more interesting, aside from the prawn there is a fantastic fried zucchini with shrimp paste, baccala’ with bell peppers\onions and one of my favorites – cuttlefish with potatoes.

We moved to the pastas:

pasta pasta 2

The first pasta is “spaghettoni with bottarga e pannocchie” (pannocchie is typical in my region and close to prawns).  It was just amazing…  but the next pasta was even better “gnocchetti with pesto and shrimp”… holy $%$% it was soo good! The pesto was very light, the gnocchetti would just melt in your mounth.  Wow…

After the pasta we decided to also order the “secondi” (second dish).  The good news is that since we ordered late we got about 20-30mins to rest :).  We were ready for what was coming next:

arrosto misto dentice

Some of us ordered the “arrosto misto” (left).  I was one of the lucky ones to go for the “dentice in crosta di pistacchio”.    The dentice (still trying to find the english name) was just amazing.  I was extremelly impressed.

We closed the meal with a mix of “semifreddi” and coffee.

Overall the meal was impeccable.  Loved it.  Service was also great.  If you ever go there tell Carlo that Max sent you! 

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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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