Tag Archives: italian

Talluto’s Tortellini the Authentic Way

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

I noticed something while shopping for pasta: some are significantly more expensive than the others! I attributed this to the quality of the product, but it turns out to be so much more than that. I decided to sit down with Joe Talluto of Talluto’s Authentic Italian Foods to hear what he had to say.  If anyone was able to clarify, he was the man for the job!

First, a bit about the history.  Tortellini was founded in Northern Italy (Bologna).  There are a few versions of how this pasta shape came-to-be; most of which involve navels (gasp!); you can read more about here. Tortellini are small, intricate, folded, and pinched pastas filled with a variety of ingredients such as meat, cheese, and/or herbs. Because there is only a very small amount of space for filling, the ingredients MUST shine! Americans generally eat tortellin in pasta salad, or with heavy tomato-based or cream sauces. This is a stark contrast to how they’re served in Italy: “in brodo” (broth). That’s right, broth! Talluto’s mirrors the Italian tradition, and fills the pasta with the best-of-the-best ingredients, allowing them to stand center-stage in beef or chicken stock.

Unbeknownst to me, most manufacturers buy from other tortellini suppliers.  Talluto’s makes all of their products in-house (see my previous post about ravioli) to maintain the integrity of the product. Locally, there is only one major supplier that pumps out tortellini to various companies. This means that the packaging may be different, but the inside product is exactly the same. Makes you feel kind of cheated when you think about…

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

Talluto’s tortellini is $9.99/lb whereas competitors are priced around $3.49-3.99/lb. That’s a big difference! But why? For starters, the competitor’s products are pre-cooked (which means you are also paying for water) and offer about 96-100 pieces per pound. Talluto’s are flash-frozen immediately after manufacturing and boasts 140 pieces per pound. The thickness of the dough is also a big factor. More dough= less filling. Talluto’s uses a thin dough, made with durum flour, semolina, eggs and no preservatives (<– important!). They also use the best cheese: Asiago, ricotta, and Parmesan. Most other brands use processed cheese as well as modified food starches or whey (read the ingredients!).

What it all comes down to is the QUALITY of the ingredients.  Cheaper is NOT always better!  Talluto’s has prided itself on commitment to their products, and perfecting their craft for nearly half a century. They use the best ingredients, produce everything in-house to monitor EXACTLY what is going into their product, and they use no fillers to bulk up the foods to make it appear as something it’s not.

I decided to put Talluto’s tortellini to the test and prepared a batch just as it’s intended to be. I grabbed a can of Cento Chicken Broth (my personal favorite) and heated in a pan until piping hot.

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

While this was cooking, I brought a large stock pot of water to a boil. I added the frozen tortellini and cooked until they floated to the top (about 4 minutes).

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

I served the tortellini with Locatelli cheese (my favorite), and let me tell you… it was beyond words. This was my first time ever eating tortellini in broth like this, and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back! It actually reminded me of a very old-school Italian dish, scrippelle’s. The combo of flavors was out of this world.

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

I still have a bunch of other Talluto’s options to choose from, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to top how much I loved the traditional Asiago tortellini!!!!

Talluto’s tortellini are sold frozen in-store in the following varieties: Asiago Tomato/Spinach/Egg, Half-moon Mushroom Casoncello (made with Kennett Square mushrooms) Basil Pesto Agnolotti Meat Tortelloni (larger tortellini filled with pork and beef).  Now do you see my dilemma?!

Talluto's Tortellini the Authentic Way

Aristotle once said, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”  I think all of Talluto’s products speak for themselves when it comes to consistency and quality. 

For a complete list of Talluto’s locations, visit http://www.tallutos.com/.

To see Talluto’s tortellini being made, check out their YouTube channel!  https://youtu.be/h_H1R0y-6eg

Marra’s on East Passyunk Ave

There aren’t many places I can eat at over and over again and still feel happy about that (ha!).  My family and I needed a place for dinner after being in the city all day, and Marra’s was able to accomodate a party of 13 with no problem at all.  This was the first thing I loved.  The second thing I loved, was when my cousin ordered “scadole” soup and the waitress echoed that exact pronunciation.  Not escarole, but “scadooooole.”  This made my heart happy.  The third thing I loved was that I just knew, before even ordering, that this was going to be the good chicken parm–where the cutlet is crispy but really juicy and tender.  And finally, when they brought out the pepperoni pizza and the thin-cut pepperoni had crisped up under the heat of the oven, I knew I’d be back at Marra’s quite sooner rather than later.  True to instinct, I was at Marra’s the next night for New Year’s Even, and a week later for pizza with my son and my boyfriend after ice skating at Rizzo Rink.  This is the kind of place you fall in love with, and go back time and time again.

Marra's on East Passyunk Ave

Marra's on East Passyunk Ave

Marra's East Passyunk Ave

 

Marra’s
1734 E Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 463-9249

Nomad Pizza Co.

After a long day out with friends, four of us stumbled into Nomad Pizza on 7th Street near Broad, and boy did we ever luck out!  I’d heard great things about Nomad, but just hadn’t got around to getting there (story of my eating-life).  Two of my friends had just returned from vacationing in Italy the week before, and at the end of the meal they proclaimed that Nomad’s pizza was the closest thing they’ve had to pizza in Italy.  From the first bite, my taste buds sang at both the taste and texture of this rustic pizza.  They also offer a bottle of Montepulciano (my personal favorite red) for $30.  I can’t recommend Nomad enough– it’s a MUST VISIT for Philly.

The Spicy Sausage:
Italian tomato, housemade mozzarella, Renaissance spicy Italian sausage, caramelized onions, basil, and parmesan cheese.

Nomad Pizza Co.

The Arugula:
Italian tomato, mozzarella di bufula, fresh baby arugula, parmesan, and black pepper.

Nomad Pizza Co.

 

Gravy in the Slow Cooker- WHAT?!

Gravy?  In a slow cooker?!  What is the blaspheme you speak of?!  Well let me tell you.  This, my dear ones, was a game changer for me!  I live a busy life, as a lot of people do.  You know the drill: work, mommy-hood, sports, school, social life, love.  It’s a lot.  Fulfilling, but a lot.  I need all the help I can get when it comes to making dinner during the week!

I decided to throw up a Hail Mary and see what it would be like to make a “pot” of gravy (sauce– whatever you want to call it) in my slow cooker.  Can I just tell you… when I poured that rich, brick-red gravy over my pasta, and took my first bite, magic happened.  Angels sang, old women clutched their pearls, and babies stopped crying.  It took 10 minutes to prep, 8 hours to cook, and about 10 minutes for me to polish off a bowl (and that was only because we had company and I was trying to be polite).

EVOO in a pan, add 1 lb. of ground sirloin plus salt, pepper, and a few red pepper flakes.  Let start to brown.  I added 1 lb. of sweet Italian sausage, cut into links.  Once that was all cooked at least on the outside, I added a medium sized can of tomato paste.  This is what I think gave it the rich, deep flavor.  I fried the paste in the rendered meat fat, and then dumped everything into my crock pot.  I added 1 large can of tomato sauce, 1/2 can of water, a bunch of fresh basil, another dash of salt, and a palm-full of sugar to cut the canned taste of the tomatoes.  Stirred, covered, and came home 8 hours later to a gravy so rich that I’m not sure I’ll ever want to stand over a hot stove again.

Gravy in the Slow Cooker- WHAT?!

Gennaro’s Tomato Pie

I found it.  The best pizza in Philly: Gennaro’s Tomato Pie. This is a bold statement, but I’m not lying.  Short of mental fantasies of what I think pizza will be like when I’m in Italy, THIS is exactly what pizza should taste like.  I read dozens of reviews online, and like most people, I was thinking I mean how good can it be.  I was wrong.  It was THAT good.  It was SO good that I tried to recreate it the next day at home, and failed miserably

Four couples, eight of us, headed out for a friend’s birthday on a Friday night.  Gennaro’s doesn’t take reservations, so while we were waiting for our table to get ready, we grabbed drinks across the street.  Once they called us (which I love!), we walked into the newly launched Gennaro’s on East Passyunk.  With [copious] bottles of wine on-hand (it’s BYO), we settled into the bright room, where the walls were covered with a red textured wallpaper that made me want to redecorate my dining room. 

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

We started with a few house salads, and an antipasto that I completely neglected to take photos of because 1- I was starving 2- it was really good 3- I’m human.  Both were perfect!  We decided to order three pies:  white, pesto, and tomato pie.  I have a slight garlic allergy and assumed I would be mainly eating the tomato pie.  I WAS WRONG!  I  was sooooooooooooo wrong!  This pizza wasn’t garlicky AT ALL and the pesto ended up being my favorite!  Folks, I couldn’t even stand how magnificent the texture and combo of flavors were.  Just outstanding. 

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

I’m not sure how there was even a millimeter of space left in our stomachs with all of the food and wine we’d already consumed, but somehow we squeezed an extra few inches of space for Neopolitan ice cream sandwichs on waffles, and creamy ice box cake.  Belly overload, but worth it 100%.

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

Gennaro's Tomato Pie

If you’ve ever paid attention to anything I’ve ever said before, move Gennaro’s up to the top of your To Do list.  Like, ASAP.

Gennaro’s Tomato Pie
1533 South 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 463-5070

 

Lasagna with My Boy

I love having my son in the kitchen with me.  It gives us great one-on-one time, and he genuinely enjoys helping me.  Lasagna was on the menu and he was the best helper!  Nothing fancy for this meal, just noodles, ricotta filling (1 large container ricotta +1 egg, locatelli, salt and pepper, and splash of gravy/marinara/sauce or whatever you call it), gravy (I had some frozen), lots of mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Bake until bubbly!

Lasagna with My Boy

Lasagna with My Boy

Lasagna with My Boy

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

My mom has been making pasta e fagioli (“pasta and beans”) since way before I was even born.  If you ask anyone in my family what they want her to make, it’s always that or her roast pork.  Both are knee-bucklers for their own reasons, but her pasta e fagioli is like childhood and family in a bowl, for me.

It rained one day on our last trip down the shore.  Like clockwork, we thought about what to make, and we decided on pasta e fagioli rather quickly.  Before long, my Aunt and Uncle had found their way to our house, and even the downstairs owner received a bowl (which subsequently caused him to love my family all the more, ha!).  My mom finally taught my step-by-step how ridiculously easy this dish is, and when we were done I was annoyed with myself for not having learned it sooner!  I also made stufed peppers, which recipe can be found here.

EVOO to coat the bottom of a large stock pot, 1/2 small onion diced, 5 cloves of garlic, kosher salt and red pepper flakes.  Cook until the onions are translucent and then add a 12-oz. can of tomato paste.  Let the paste fry in the oil and onions for 5 minutes or so.  Add 3 cans of white kidney beans (with juice), 5 cans of water, fresh basil and parsley.  Bring to just under a boil and add 1 lb. of al dente ditalini.  Cover and let sit on low for at least one hour.  Serve with locatelli cheese and red pepper flakes.

Recipe card:

Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 4
Pasta and beans: Italian comfort food!
Write a review
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. EVOO
  2. 1/2 small onion
  3. 5 cloves garlic
  4. 3 cans white kidney beans
  5. 1 lb. cooked ditalini
  6. fresh basil
  7. fresh parsley
  8. kosher salt
  9. red pepper flakes
  10. locatelli
Instructions
  1. EVOO to coat the bottom of a large stock pot, 1/2 small onion diced, 5 cloves of garlic, kosher salt and red pepper flakes.
  2. Cook until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add a 12-oz. can of tomato paste.
  4. Let the paste fry in the oil and onions for 5 minutes or so.
  5. Add 3 cans of white kidney beans (with juice), 5 cans of water, fresh basil and parsley.
  6. Bring to just under a boil.
  7. Add 1 lb. of al dente ditalini.
  8. Cover and let sit on low for at least one hour.
  9. Serve with locatelli cheese and red pepper flakes.
Philly Food Girl http://thephillyfoodgirl.com/

Vesper Brothers Sauce

Few things make me happier than a bowl of pasta.  I really, reeeeally love pasta.  All shapes and sizes, different sauces, cuts, textures, etc etc.  When Bill Vesper of Vesper Brothers’ Foods reached out for me to try his pizza sauce, I have to say I was a little skeptical.  Sauce from a jar?  As any Italian will tell you, “it’s a sin, God forbid!”  However… to my eye-popping surprise, It.  Was.  Phenomenal.  !!  It tastes just like your grandmother, or whomever, made and put it into a jar for you to take home with you.  It shouldn’t even be alowed in the realm of “jarred sauce” because it’s anything but. 

This is whole grain Ronzoni Spaghetti with Vesper Bros. Spicy Arabiatta Sauce, lean ground sirloin, lots of fresh basil.

 Vesper Brothers Sauce

Talluto’s Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

I first met Joe Talluto a few months ago when I visited the Talluto’s Authentic Italian Food factory to see how they make their fabulous homemade pasta (and many other things!).  Needless to say I was ecstatic when he invited me down to the Italian Market to learn first-hand how mozzarella and burrata are made.

I arrived at the Italian Market as I usually do, with a smile on my face and simultaneous regret that I never lived in the city at some point in my 20s (ha!).  Seriously though I really love the Market.  There’s just something about it that genuinely pulls at my heart strings.  The people, scenery, vendors, and the overall sense of rhythmic tradition is just unduplicatable.  It’s like its own little city within the city of Philadelphia.  Three years ago I had the pleasure of being at the Market on Christmas Eve.  I remember standing in one of the stores while people yelled their cheese order from across the room, there was a small band playing outside, I was juggling my bags because of course I waayyyy overbought, and there was an old metal drum outside with a fire burning to try and help people stay warm.  I stopped out front of what I now realize was Talluto’s, and texted my friend to tell him I had found my new happy place.  It was a distinct organized chaos that I immediately connected with.

Talluto’s is situated on the corner of 9th & Carpenter in the heart of the Italian Market.  I walked into the store that was already busy at 10:30 in the morning, ready to make (eat) some cheese!  Joe Talluto greeted me with a warm smile and unlike our first meeting where I felt clumsy and nervous, this time it was like seeing an old family friend.  The transition from handshake to hug is always my favorite— especially since it seemed way more fitting considering it feels like everyone knows everyone on this street.  We headed in the back where I was introduced to Rick, a partner in Talluto’s retail as well as the Italian Market and Norristown locations (Norristown is the location of the original factory which I wrote about in my previous Talluto’s post).  Next was Dave, who runs the Italian Market location.  Finally, Tony was the one who would show me how to make burrata.  As expected, everyone was super friendly and hospitable.

Dave and I stood by a sink that pipes out hot water at 185 degrees.  It’s the only sink in the store that produces the very hot water (from the basement), and it’s used primarily to make the mozzarella.  It would be far too labor intensive, and would take up a ton of room to have to heat and reheat water continuously just for the purpose of cheese.  When I saw how precise the process is, this made all the more sense.

Cheese curds are cut into large chunks and pushed through what are basically metal guitar strings.  This keeps the size consistent and makes for a smooth final product.  Everything goes into a large metal bowl which will retain the heat needed to make the cheese.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

After the curds are put into the bowl, Dave adds the hot water which starts cooking the curds.  Water will be added and taken away throughout the entire process so that it’s just the right temperature.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Dave immediately begins working the curds with a large paddle.  It really isn’t an exact science to make the cheese, and seems more about instinct and being able to observe when the next step is ready to take place. This clearly comes from a ton of trial and error. 

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

The curds will begin to melt in the water and will eventually smooth out into silky strands when formed over the paddle.  This is when you know it’s time to start shaping the cheese into the mozzarella balls.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Dave showed me how to use the heel of my hand to stretch and form the cheese into a baseball-sized piece.  I was trying not to use my fingers too much to tuck the cheese in underneath (it’ll create air bubbles in the cheese), but it was a bit harder than it looked!

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

After the mozzarella ball is formed, you tear off the excess and it goes into cold water for it to set.  Dave showed me how to braid the cheese which took him about 2.4 seconds with zero chance I could have mimicked in a one-day visit!  It really was just about as beautiful as cheese can be.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

The excess mozzarella is stretched into a thinner rope, and cut into knots.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

It’s then used for Talluto’s fresh mozzarella salad.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Next up– BURRATA!  If you’ve never had burrata, you really are missing out.  It’s like mozzarella and cream had a baby, and it is absolutely delicious.  In fact, that’s a huge understatement which I realized even further after I had Talluto’s burrata.  More on that after my lesson.  Burrata comes from the Italian word for butter, “burro”.  The word “burrata” means “buttered” in Italian.  While it’s only gained popularity in the last few years, burrata was actually originally crafted in Puglia (southern Italy) around the 1920s.  Once you’ve tried it, I promise you’ll be looking for it on any restaurant menu going forward.

Tony has been with Talluto’s for almost a decade and is the burrata man.  He and the rest of the team have perfected this process after much trial and error.  While it’s not a ton of steps, it really is extremely precise so that the final product is always consistent.  Tony starts by adding some of the fresh mozzarella into a chopper (think Cuisinart).

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Cream is then added.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Then some salt.  I’ve kept out the measurements so that there are SOME secrets left!  Joe mentioned that Talluto’s will be changing their salt to an Italy- originated product.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

The mixture is blended until it’s about the consistency of a pureed cottage cheese.  It was then that I wanted to stick a spoon into the chopper.  I did not.  But I wanted to.  Also, if you are wondering what those golden tins are holding, it’s bread pudding cooling which smelled AMAZING!  It’s the Italian Market; these stores don’t have a ton of space to work with so the kitchens are small and every inch of space is utilized.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

More fresh mozzarella is made except instead of being formed into balls, this time it’s flattened out and placed into a small cup to shape so that the creamy mixture has somewhere to rest. 

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Tony used a scoop so that every burrata holds the exact same amount.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

The remaining cheese is folded over the top, twisted, pinched off, flipped over inside the cup, and left to sit in the warm water so that the cheese can seal all of that creamy cheese mixture inside.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

After it sets, the burrata is wrapped in plastic and tied with a  green ribbon.  Joe explained that in Italy they use fresh flowers to indicate how long ago the cheese was made.  As the flowers begin to wilt, the longer it’s been since the cheese was originally made.  Things are a bit more regulated in the US and Talluto’s isn’t allowed to follow this tradition.  Instead, they opt for green ribbon for their burrata.  It’s like the best little cheese gift ever!

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

After the mozzarella and burrata were made, Joe prepared a gorgeous spread for us to enjoy.  He put the burrata over arugula that was lightly dressed with really good olive oil (you can definitely tell the difference between good olive oil and grocery-store kind.  You only need a small amount of this liquid gold and there’s really no comparison to the store-bought version), salt, and pepper.  Dave brought out freshly cut speck, which is smoked prosciutto.  Fresh prosciutto on waxed paper is easily one of those foods that makes me internally whimper in delight at the mere sight of it.  Joe cut the burrata almost all the way through in quarters, and drizzled with more olive oil.  What we were left with was a salad made for kings.  And by kings, I mean a bunch of completely normal people who just happen to love food!  Plus me, not a queen but perhaps a princess just for today.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Like many people, I’d never even heard of burrata until about the last year.  Lately, it’s become a bit of a trendy thing.  My mother and I had it for the first time this summer down the shore and loved it.  I’ve had it a few times since then and it’s such a treat, and a break from the traditional mozzarella.  However, after tasting this fresh Talluto’s burrata, I’m almost insulted by those other impostor burratas!!!  I’m serious.  The others don’t even compare to what I experienced.  With just one bite, I knew I’d never really be satisfied with other burrata again.  It became my new standard: the level by which all other burrata will now be measured.

Joe also made a caprese salad with fresh bread, using the mozzarella we had just made.  He sliced me off a piece of the fresh mutz that was just made not 30 min prior!  Simple ingredients, that’s really all you need for an honest meal.

http://en.wTalluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lessonikipedia.org/wiki/Burrata

At one point I had to stop and take it all in.  I told Joe, “I know this is your every day.  But this is crazy to me.  I’m standing here in the kitchen, in the back of Talluto’s in the Italian Market, eating this cheese we just made.”  It was such a moment for me, and I could picture myself telling my son about it as soon as I got home (which is exactly what I did).  I know I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.

Talluto’s makes a few batches of mozzarella and burrata on a daily basis.  However, if you go in and they’re sold out of mozzarella, they’ll be happy to make some for you fresh while you wait.  How epic is that?!  In my head, it should take so much longer to make this glorious cheese, but to know you can get it made fresh when you need it, is just mind blowing.

After we were done, I walked out into the store to get a closer look of the other things Talluto’s offers (not just cheese and pasta!).  Homemade salads were sitting, ready to be scooped into containers, and olives just as pretty as they could be, bathing in their briny juices.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

Joe and I walked over to one of my other favorite places in the Market, Fante’s.  If you haven’t been, I sincerely suggest you do.  Not only do they have a huge selection of the best-of-the-best kitchen supplies, but the back room is filled with unique baking supplies that I always leave with a few of.  Unbeknownst me, and the reason we were there, Fante’s has a coffee and tea bar inside!  I’m regretting not bringing some of those fragrant teas home with me.  Joe’s latte smelled intoxicating, and the owner, Mariella Esposito, was as sweet as could be.  The comradery between the two as they interacted was so nice to see; I could tell the family relationship had gone back for years and years.   I’m bucket-listing to grab some tea the next time I’m in the area.

I walked around the market for a bit afterwards and picked up some fresh arugula, baby eggplant, and basil.  I even bought a signed and numbered print of the Market from the Visitor’s Center to remember that day always.  I’m having  it framed to be hung in my dining room.  Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson

A few days later I took some of that exquisite mozzarella and made pizza for my son and I, with the eggplant and fresh basil I bought from the Market (plain for him).  Somehow, it tasted just a little bit better with all of the extra love and memories put into it.

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata LessonTalluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson(Recipe is here http://www.imphillyfoodgirl.com/eggplant-pizza-with-fresh-mozzarella/)

Another great day with Talluto’s, in one of my most favorite places, ever. 

Talluto's Mozzarella and Burrata Lesson(From left to right: Rick, Dave, me, Tony, Joe)

Talluto’s Authentic Italian Foods
944 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 627-4967
http://tallutos.com/