IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bella! Italian comfort food to warm the heart (and body!)

Italy is not just sun and Mediterranean beaches -- there are mountains and cold weather, too. And that means plenty of fabulous food to get through the wintry days. Check out these recipes from New York City's Fresco By Scotto restaurant.
/ Source: TODAY

Brrrr! For much of America, this winter has been one of the coldest in history. So what better time to warm up family and friends than some stick-to-your-ribs Italian food? "Today" regulars the Scottos — Marion, John, Rosanna, Anthony and Elaina — from New York City's Fresco restaurant came on the show to whip up some of their favorite winter recipes.

Pasta e Fagioli
(Serves 6)

1 pound dried white beans, such as cannellini or navy, rinsed and picked over1 cup Italian plum tomatoes½ cup olive oil1 tablespoon chopped garlic½ pound onions, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste¼ pound prosciutto (in one piece)4 quarts water, or 3 quarts water and 1 quart chicken stock¼ teaspoon salt, or to tasteFreshly ground black pepper to taste1 pound dried tubettini pasta¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by 3 to 4 inches. Set aside to soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans with fresh water. Boil for 1½ hours.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic, onion and prosciutto, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the red pepper flakes and tomatoes, and cook uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Add the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for ½ hour, or until the beans are very tender.

4. In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain.

5. Add the pasta to the beans and stir over high heat for 1½ to 2 minutes to allow the pasta to combine with the sauce.

6. Garnish generously with grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 tablespoons per serving) and serve.


Penne Gratin
(Serves 6)

1 pound uncooked penne pasta1 cup diced prosciutto3 tablespoons olive oil½ cup unsalted butter1 cup heavy cream4½ cups grated parmesan cheese½ cup fontina cheese, diced½ cup fresh mozzarella cheese, dicedFreshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, or 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

2. In a sauté pan over low heat, sauté the prosciutto in the olive oil for about 3 minutes, or until prosciutto is wilted.

3. Preheat the broiler.

4. In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the prosciutto, heavy cream, 3½ cups of the Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of pepper.

5. Bring the sauce to a light boil, add the pasta, toss, and transfer the pasta into a shallow baking dish.

6. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan cheese on top and broil for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.


Chicken with Fresh Tomatoes and Mushrooms(Serves 6)

1 whole 3-pound chicken½ cup all-purpose flourSalt and pepper¾ cup olive oil1 tablespoon chopped garlic1 cup chopped onion1 cup halved button mushrooms¼ cup red wine vinegar2 cups tomato sauce1 cup chicken stock½ bunch fresh basil, finely chopped

1. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces, leaving the bones in and the skin on.

2. Season the flour with salt and pepper to taste. Lightly dust the chicken pieces.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, pan-sear the chicken on all sides in ¼ cup of the olive oil until golden brown, or about 4 minutes. Set aside.

4. In the same pan, heat the remaining ½ cup olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion until light brown, or about 2 minutes.

5. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar.

6. Add the tomato sauce and stock and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for about 1 hour on low heat. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Lamb Pot Roast with Creamy Polenta
(Serves 4)

5 pounds lamb stew meat (2-inch cut)2½ cups diced carrots1½ cups diced onion2½ cups diced fennelThymeOregano2 cups port wine1 quart veal stock1 cup extra virgin olive oilSalt and pepper to taste

1. Heat just over half of the olive oil in a hot braising pan and sear lamb stew meat until dark brown in color.

2. In the same pan, cook carrots, onion, fennel and herbs in the remaining olive oil and cook for 5 minutes to get some of the flavor from the vegetables.

3. Add port wine and let reduce in half. Add veal stock, salt and pepper, and cover.

4. Cook in 350° oven for about 30 to 45 minutes.

Creamy Polenta
3 cups milk1 cup water1 cup instant polenta½ cup mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese)

1. Heat the milk and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. While it is simmering, slowly add the polenta. Stir constantly for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese. Set the polenta aside. ------------------------------------------

Braised Short Ribs with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
(Serves 4)

½ cup olive oil6 pounds short ribs of beef, cut 2 inches wideFreshly ground black pepper to taste1 cup prosciutto, diced½ cups finely grated carrots2 cups finely grated onion1 cup finely grated fennel (1 trimmed bulb)¼ cup chopped garlic1 tablespoon grated lemon zest1 tablespoon grated orange zest1½ cups tomato puree1 cup red wine1 cup beef stock1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and put about a third of them into the skillet. Sear them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until browned, and transfer to a roasting pan. Sear the remaining ribs in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan with the ribs.

2. Reduce the heat to low, add the prosciutto to the same skillet, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fat is rendered. Carefully pour off the fat and discard, keeping the prosciutto meat in the skillet.

3. Add the carrots, onion, fennel, and garlic and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables soften. Add the lemon and orange zest, tomato puree, wine, stock, and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt if necessary and continue to cook for about 5 minutes longer.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

5. Pour the sauce over the ribs in the roasting pan, making sure they are nearly covered. If necessary, add more stock or water so that the liquid comes three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ribs. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1½ hours. Remove the foil and bake for about 1 hour longer, until the ribs are very tender.

6. Transfer the ribs to a warm serving platter. Pour the sauce remaining in the pan into a saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until reduced to about 3 cups. Serve the ribs with the sauce.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 cup of peeled garlic cloves1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil2 pounds small potatoes, cut in quarters 1½ cup heavy cream 7 tablespoons unsalted butter Kosher salt to taste

1: Place garlic cloves on baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil.  

2: Slowly roast in an oven at 325° for 1 hour. Let cool and grind into paste with a food processor.

3. Place potatoes in a saucepan full of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. In another saucepan, melt butter and add cream and heat until it comes to a boil.

3. Mix in potatoes and garlic paste; mash all together.

4. Season with salt and serve immediately.


Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding
(Serves 6)

1 cup granulated sugar¼ cup cornstarch¼ teaspoon salt3 cups milk3 egg yolks, slightly beaten2 tablespoons butter2 teaspoons vanilla extract2½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in milk, blending well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Blend a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks to temper them (prevents curdling). Return to saucepan, blending thoroughly. Cook until mixture just begins to bubble, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in butter, vanilla and chocolate and then refrigerate.

Whipped Topping(Make after pudding has set about 1 hour)

1 container (500 grams) mascarpone (an Italian cream cheese) 2 cups heavy cream ¼ cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip ingredients until stiff, spread over pudding and return to refrigerator for at least 2 more hours.


Arborio Rice Pudding
(Serves 6)

1 quart plus 1 cup heavy cream2 cups whole milk¾ cup Arborio rice (the pearly, round, fat Italian white rice which forms
the foundation of risotto) 3 whole eggs5 egg yolks1 cup sugar1 tablespoon vanilla extract1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon2 teaspoons orange flower water (available in specialty food stores)1 cup chopped dates

1. Combine 1 quart of the cream, the milk and the rice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until creamy.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and orange flower water. Set aside.

3. Add a small amount of the hot liquid into the egg mixture, mix well, and add the rest. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream and the chopped dates.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the mixture into a 4-quart casserole. Place the casserole in a larger pan and put the pan in the oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to fill it halfway. Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set.