Eggplant Parmesan


Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)


Over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve tried every jarred tomato sauce on the market and have always been disappointed. Too sweet, too thin, too bitter – never right, I felt like Goldilocks. It had got to the point where I had considered creating our own until I received an email a couple of weeks ago from Melissa Vitelli of Jar Goods. She asked if she could send me a sample of her Classic Red and ever hopeful, I said yes but was not overly optimistic given my experiences. It was perfection! Just the right amount of sweetness and bursting with flavor and richness. The first night I tossed it with Spaghetti and the second night, I added some cream, vodka and chili for the perfect Penne alla Vodka. My search was over and I’m over the moon to be selling it on Many Kitchens.


I got to meet Melissa and her sister-in-law Laura this week and hear the origins of their Classic Red. Laura’s father has been simmering this sauce for 50 years and agreed to pass on the family’s secret recipe. It seems that Laura too had been frustrated by the lack of a decent sauce on the market and I’m grateful that she has filled that hole.


The sauce is by no means limited to pasta sauces but can be used as a base in anything from Chicken Cacciatore to Pizza. This weekend I used it while making Melanzane alla Parmigiana (adapted from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cook Book) and not only did it cut down my cooking time by half but it was also the best one I have ever made.


Melanzane all Parmigiana

Serves 4 people


3 medium eggplant

1 jar of tomato sauce (Classic Red)

1 mozzarella, grated

¼ cup of grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Vegetable oil




1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel the eggplant and slice lengthways (about ¼ inch thick)

3. Make a layer of eggplant in a colander standing over a bowl.

4. Salt generously and continue layering and salting until all the eggplant is used.

5. Leave for at least 30 minutes and then dry the slices with paper towels.

6. In a large skillet, pour enough oil to fully cover the pan and turn the heat to high.

7. When the oil is sizzling, add the eggplant with tongs and be careful not to get splattered as it spits. Do not overcrowd the pan.

8. Fry on both sides until golden brown and repeat until all the eggplant is used.

9. Transfer the eggplant to a platter lined with paper towels and cover with more paper towels to remove the excess oil.

10. In an oven proof dish, make a layer of eggplant.

11. Cover the eggplant with a few spoonfuls of Classic Red and smooth over with the back of a spoon.

12. Cover the sauce with grated mozzarella and sprinkle some Parmesan.

13. Repeat these layers – the top layer should be just eggplant and Parmesan.

14. Bake for 30 minutes and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.


A Visit to Portland, OR



Portland is a green city- both in its verdant paths as well as its eco-friendly outlook. Known as the “city of roses,” this spring was a wonderful time to visit this west coast gem and explore some of its much-loved attractions. As a family, we met to celebrate my brother’s recent engagement and get four generations under one roof. The meals were delicious from grilled Cornish game hen and wild caught salmon to Chicken Marbella (a dish from the Silver Palate Cookbook that I am sure to make for my next dinner party) but the scenery was not to be missed!


Between outdoor barbecues in gardens that made me seriously contemplate moving, we jetted around the city to see some of the sights. Now, if you are new to the city, you should be made aware of their slogan: “Keep Portland Weird.” Portland is a city with great food, natural beauty and freaks galore. They revel in their oddity and are known for an annual naked bike ride, outrageous donuts courtesy of Voodoo Donuts (which we of course visited) and a sense of fashion that is distinctly Northwest. Because of all this, Portland will never fail to leave an impression. You can check out their bevy of food carts, indulge in the delectable seafood and hike through their numerous trails but never forget to waive your freak flag and cut loose in this distinct and vibrant city. My only regret was that the time flew by and before I knew it, I was braving these spring storms on another cross-country flight.  


If you are planning a trip to Portland, below are some of the sights to hit.


Rigatoni with Sausage Sauce


It’s raining outside, AGAIN! We keep getting glimpses of summer and then another monsoon seems to hit New York. I should be writing about light salads and summer cocktails but my stomach (where my brain generally resides) seems to be stuck on hearty pastas. For those who know me, there’s nothing very new about that.


Of all the pasta sauces that I make, this is the one that is most requested and my go to recipe when feeding a large group of people. The recipe comes from the original River Café cookbook and has two versions made by a husband and wife respectively. I could never figure out which one I preferred so I merged the two together and have been making it for so long that I don’t think it resembles either one anymore. The amounts below are just a guideline as you can’t really go wrong. As with so many meat sauces, the longer you cook it, the better it gets. As I write this, the pot on my stove has been slowly simmering away for the last 4 hours and I’ve barely checked on it.


Rigatoni with Sausage Sauce

Serves 8


2 lbs. of Rigatoni

1 large onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

8 sausages removed from their casing (5 sweet and 3 hot – this can be switched if you prefer it spicier)

1 cup red wine

2 (28 oz. cans) of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

½ cup of heavy cream

½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese



1. Sweat the onions and rosemary in a heavy cast iron Dutch oven on medium heat until translucent for about 10 minutes.

2. Add the sausages and mix well with the onions. I use a potato masher to break up the sausages.

3. Cook until the sausages are no longer raw – about 5 minutes.

4. Add the wine and cook for another 5 minutes until most of the wine has evaporated.

5. Add the cans of tomatoes and again, use the masher to break up the tomatoes.

6. Reduce to a simmer and let it bubble slowly away for a minimum of 3 hours.

7. Fill a large pot with water and salt generously.

8. Cook pasta as per instructions on the box and then drain.

9. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and then add the cream and cheese and stir well over low heat for a couple of minutes.

10. Serve with extra grated parmesan cheese.

I like to add a handful of (defrosted) frozen peas to the sauce but have recently discovered some real pea haters out there so have left out for their benefit.