The Dish: Chef Donatella Arpaia

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Chef Donatella Arpaia

CBS News

Chef Donatella Arpaia’s passion for food began as a child on visits to her grandfather’s olive farm in Italy. She grew up in a family of restaurateurs in New York, but her parents persuaded her to attend law school. She ended up leaving the legal world behind, opening her first restaurant at 25 years old.

Her latest endeavor, Prova Pizza Bar, brings a favorite from her childhood to the food halls of Grand Central Station in New York City.

Here are some of her Arpaia’s signature recipes: 

Bruschetta with Butternut Squash and Burrata

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of butternut squash, peeled cut into ¾ inch
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) - about 2 tbsp
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 3½  cups yellow onions sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 6½  inch thick rustic country bread (toasted)
  • 2 cups of burrata (roughly chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped rosemary (as garnish)

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place squash drizzled with EVOO, salt and pepper on sheet pan. Toss and spread out in an even layer. Roast for about 35 minutes until very tender and starting to brown.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a sautée pan, add onions and rosemary over medium heat for about 1-15 minutes turning with wooden spoon until golden brown.
  4. Add vinegar and maple syrup and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add squash into sauté pan and mash lightly with fork.
  5. Assemble bruschetta, add pieces of burrata on each toast covering completely and spoon on a nice layer of butternut squash. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm.

Spicy Meatballs

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 small loaf stale Italian bread (about 8 thick slices) torn into 2 1/2” chunks
  • 2 lbs. 80% lean ground beef chuck, broken up
  • 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Canola oil for frying

Procedure

  1. Put bread in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover. let stand for 5 minutes, turning to moisten evenly. Gently squeeze out excess water.
  2. Add beef, garlic, parsley, egg and ¾ cup of Parmigiano to the bread and combine. Season with salt and pepper. Knead the mixture for at least 5 minutes with your hands, until uniformly combined and smooth.
  3. Pinch a tablespoon of meat into your palms and shape into a ball. Place on a baking sheet and continue with the rest of the mixture.
  4. Fill a 10” skillet halfway with canola oil and heat over high heat. When strands form along the bottom, lower 8-10 meatballs at a time into the oil. Do not overcrowd. They should be ¾ submerged in oil. Reduce the heat to medium and fry for 6-7 minutes each side, turning only once.
  5. Remove the meatballs from the oil and turn the heat back up to high before starting the second batch.
  6. Twenty minutes before serving, add the meatballs to the simmering ragu.

Ragu ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs (6-8) meaty, bone-in-pork spareribs, rinsed
  • 1 ½ lbs (6-8) sweet italian sausage with fennel seeds, pierced all over with a fork
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 (35 oz.) cans tomato puree
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon calabrian chili or ½ teaspoon of red chili flakes

Procedure

  1. Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat.
  2. Add celery and onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté, partially covered about 5 minutes until golden and soft.
  3. Add meats and raise the heat to medium-high. Sauté, turning occasionally until browned all over.
  4. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates, 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato puree, basil, chili pepper, salt and pepper. partially cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Let it simmer 1 ½-2 hours.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

It’s a Tuscan peasant dish through and through: stale bread moistened with juicy tomatoes and olive oil. But with a little tweaking – colorful heirloom tomatoes, haricot verts, ricotta salata – this citified panzanella is posh enough to serve to your well-heeled friends without reservation.

Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

Croutons

  • ½ loaf rustic Italian bread, cut into 1” cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • ¾ cup EVOO

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 pound haricot verts
  • 2 ½ pounds (about 4 medium) assorted heirloom tomatoes, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Procedure

To make the croutons: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. 
  2. Combine the bread, garlic, oregano, and olive oil in a large bowl and toss until the cubes are completely coated. 
  3. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

To make the vinaigrette: 

  1. Combine the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. 
  2. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the salad: 

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. 
  2. Blanch the haricot verts in the boiling water for 2 to 6 minutes, or until barely tender, with a slightly firm bite still left to them. 
  3. Drain the beans and transfer to the ice bath to chill quickly, then drain again and dry on paper towels. Cut each in half. 
  4. Combine the haricots verts and tomatoes in a large bowl. Shave the ricotta salata into the bowl using the large holes of a box grater. Add the croutons and toss to combine thoroughly. 
  5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and croutons, and gently toss with wooden spoons. Season with sea salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl or platter, garnish with the basil, and serve.

Paccheri al Cardinale

In Italy, cardinals eat better than anyone, including kings, and this dish is ideal when you want to bring a little drama to the table. At Mia Dona, we bake it to order in an earthenware crock covered in parchment paper. The server slashes the parchment open at the table and spoons a white cloud of fresh ricotta on top.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

You’ll need parchment paper

Tomato Sauce

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Paccheri

  • 1 pound paccheri or rigatoni
  • ½ cup grated pecorino
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup grated smoked mozzarella
  • 20 basil leaves, cut into slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta

Procedure

To make the tomato sauce: 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and sauté about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, about 30 minutes, until thick.

To make the paccheri: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the paccheri and cook until not quite al dente.
  2. Add the pecorino, Parmigiano, and mozzarella to the thickened tomato sauce and stir until the mozzarella melts. Stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  3. Use a spider to lift the paccheri out of the water and into the sauce. Toss to coat, then transfer to a 4-quart casserole. 
  4. Cover with parchment paper, tucking it into the sides of the dish. Bake about 20 minutes, until the pasta is piping hot. Bring the dish to the table, cut an “X” in the parchment, and gently tear back the points. Spoon some ricotta onto each portion.

Lemon Ricotta Fritters

When I opened Bellini in the mid-1990s, I wanted to serve my grandmother’s zeppoles – fried balls of dough dusted with sugar – with tiny pots of chocolate sauce for dipping. My dad insisted it wasn’t elegant enough for a Midtown Manhattan restaurant, that it was too reminiscent of street food. He was wrong. The customers looooved it then (servied with a tuny tub of warm chocolate sauce) and love it just as much in this iteration as it is currently served at Mia Dona. Serve these with Easy Chocolate Sauce in individual butter warmers.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons plus ½ cup sugar
  • ½ pound fresh ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Procedure

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. 
  2. Whisk together the eggs and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, lemon zest, and vanilla and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. 
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture and stir until smooth. Combine the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and faint streaks appear on the bottom of the pan. Working in batches, carefully drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time into the oil and fry, turning several times, until golden brown. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent the fritters from burning. Do not walk away from the pan while the fritters fry. Drain on paper towels or on a brown paper bag.
  5. Toss the warm fritters in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, pile on a rimmed serving platter, and serve immediately. 

Negroni Campari

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1½ ounces campari
  • 1½ ounces gin
  • Orange slice or twist

Mix ingredients and add orange slice or twist for garnish