Here we are, on vacation, in Naples Florida, mooching off of the Nearys for a week, and guess what, first Betty and then I am called upon to cook. Sometimes one just can’t get away from the stove; but to loosely quote Harry Truman, ‘if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.’
Challenged to come up with a dinner plan a few days ago, after our hosts had outdone themselves with delicious meals, Betty hit upon the idea of making her Paella. With the help of sous chef Joan, she prepared a superb dinner that the four of us lustily consumed along with a couple of bottles of Rioja. There was very little left after several of us revisited the Paella Pan for seconds. Served preceded by a soup, or another first course, this recipe should easily feed six people.
My introduction to Paella was at El Faro in the West Village, about 55 years ago. I had never had anything like it before! Chicken, sausage and seafood mixed with rice, what’s not to like? Dorothea began making her version of it shortly thereafter and Betty’s is based loosely on hers. I say loosely, because my mother hardly ever wrote down a recipe and hardly ever measured out the ingredients, so we really don’t know what her version was, only what was in it or what was not. But as to the proportions of each ingredient that’s anybody’s guess.
Thankfully my wife kept a record of what went into her Paella this time and what quantity of each ingredient was used. She also documented each step and we are pleased to share it here with you as Paella Isabella.
Last night it was my turn in the kitchen and my challenge was to prepare something that 8 people would enjoy and which would not require me to be in the kitchen after the other 4 guests arrived. After considering Veal Saltimbocca and Veal Rollatini, both of which would require too much last minute preparation, I opted for a pasta dish with a flavorful sauce that could be prepared leisurely in the afternoon.
I decided to make a variation of Rigatoni all’ Oltrarno, reducing the amount of eggplant by about two-thirds, dispensing with the olives and hot pepper and adding instead, 2 pounds of Italian sausage, both the hot and sweet kind. Accompanied by a few bottles of Chianti Classico Riserva and several loaves of crusty Italian bread, there were no complaints from the gathered dinner guests. In honor of our generous hosts and longtime friends and traveling companions, this pasta dish has been named Rigatoni Neri.