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Italian Food Fit For Obama, On Shoestring

It's no secret that the president-elect loves his Italian food.

On The Early Show Saturday Edition, this week's "Chef on a Shoestring," Michael White, brought a little taste of Italy worthy of Italian food fan Barack Obama.

White is the executive chef at two of New York's most popular Italian eateries, Alto and Convivo, and every day he's charged with keeping both of their New York Times three-star ratings.

He had a different challenge on the show: making a three-course Italian meal for four, on our new recession-busting budget of just $35 - and a meal easy enough for you to make at home.

White also tossed his chef's hat into our "How Low Can You Go" ring: The shoestring chef who comes in with the lowest-priced meal this year will come back to cook our big, blowout holiday dinner!


  • Rustic Bruschetta with Bacon, White Beans and Anchovy
  • Baked Ricotta Gnocchi
  • Sicilian Citrus Gelato


    Broccoli Rabe (pronounced Broccoli Rob) is also referred to as rabe or rapini. This is a leafy green vegetable frequently eaten in southern Italy and has become popular in the United States. The vegetable has a slightly bitter taste and is frequently steamed or lightly sauteed in olive oil.

    Gnocchi is the Italian name for a variety of thick, soft noodle or dumpling. They may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or other ingredients of a generic disposition.


    Rustic Bruschetta with Bacon, White Beans and Anchovy

    8 pieces thickly cut crusty bread
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    6 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
    1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
    2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    2 pounds broccoli rabe, thick stems removed and discarded, cut into 3 inch pieces
    1/4 cup water
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup white beans
    8 filleted anchovies in oil, drained and diced
    1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

    Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

    Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and drizzle the pieces with 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Toast for six minutes, remove and let cool.

    While bread is toasting, heat remaining olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat to hot but not smoking. Stir in the bacon and cook until golden, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Add the onion, garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5-6 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and 1/4 cup water, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss gently. Cover and cook until the broccoli rabe is softened, about 5 minutes.

    Uncover and add white beans and anchovies, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli rabe is completely tender and beans are warmed through, 2 minutes longer.

    To serve, spoon the broccoli rabe mixture on top of the toasts, top with grated cheese and serve.

    For more recipes, go to Page 2.

  • Baked Ricotta Gnocchi

    6 tablespoons olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, smashed
    1 medium onion, diced
    Two 28-ounces cans of tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
    10 leaves basil
    2-3/4 cups of AP flour plus extra for work surface
    2 large eggs, beaten with a fork
    1-1/2 pounds of whole milk ricotta cheese
    1-1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
    1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs

    Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a sauce pot.

    When hot, add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.

    Add tomato and bring to a boil. Add basil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes

    While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 300ºF.

    Place flour in a large mixing bowl and add eggs, ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix ingredients together with your hands to form a ball.

    Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface and knead lightly for a few minutes, gradually adding flour if the dough sticks to the board or hands. The dough is ready when it no longer sticks but is still somewhat tacky soft.

    Using a knife, cut a piece of dough off the ball. Using both hands, roll out each ball of dough into a log about the width of your index finger. Cut each log into 1/2 inch pieces.

    Once the water is boiling, add the gnocchi in batches and cook, uncovered over high heat, until the gnocchi rise to the surface of the water, about 3 minutes.

    Remove the gnocchi to a lightly oiled casserole dish and add the tomato sauce you made earlier, tossing to make sure the gnocchi are covered with sauce.

    Top with remaining parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

    Sicilian Citrus Gelato

    Vanilla Gelato
    12 ounces Orange juice concentrate, thawed
    6 ounces seltzer
    2 blood oranges, segmented
    Whipped Cream

    Combine thawed orange juice concentrate with two ounces seltzer to create an orange seltzer. Place two scoops of vanilla gelato in four each sundae glasses.

    Pour ½ cup orange seltzer over each and top with a generous spoonful of whipped cream and blood orange segments. Serve immediately.

    So, how did White fare with our $35 budget?

    Bruschetta with Bacon
    Crusty bread $2.29
    Bacon $1.99
    Onion $.56
    Garlic $0.39
    Broccoli rabe $3.38
    White beans $1.29
    Anchovies $.99
    Pecorino Romano $2.50
    Total $13.39

    Baked Ricotta Gnocchi
    Onion .56
    Diced tomatoes $3.18
    Basil $1.49
    Parmesan $2.24
    Nutmeg .99
    Bread crumbs $1.19
    Total $13.84

    Sicilian Citrus Gelato
    Vanilla Gelato $1.99
    Orange juice concentrate $1.59
    Seltzer $1.19
    Blood oranges $1.18
    Whipped cream $1.19
    Total $7.14

    Total Cost $34.37!