Copyright © 2014 by Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos
Photographs copyright © 2014 by Eric Wolfinger
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint
of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC,
a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
CLARKSON POTTER is a trademark and POTTER with colophon is a
registered trademark of Random House LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Mazar, Debi.
  Extra virgin : recipes & love from our Tuscan kitchen / Debi Mazar and
Gabriele Corcos ; photographs by Eric Wolfinger. — First edition.
  pages cm
  Includes index.
  1. Cooking, Italian—Tuscan style. I. Corcos, Gabriele. II. Title.
  TX723.2.T86M398 2014

ISBN 978-0-385-34605-4
eBook ISBN 978-0-385-34606-1
Printed in China
Book and jacket design by Jan Derevjanik
Jacket photography by Eric Wolfinger
All photographs are by Eric Wolfinger with the exception of:
pp. 29, 49, 88, 99, 241 by Jeremiah Alley; pp. 5, 38, 63 by
Lorenzo Carlomagno; and p. 21 by David Lang.
Photographs courtesy of the authors: p. 175 by Chiara Sinatti
and pp. 4, 235, and 256.
Cooking Channel photographs on pp. 8–9, 13, 26, 38, 73,
163, 199, and 231 are provided courtesy of Cooking Channel, LLC.
© 2011 Cooking Channel, LLC.
Cooking Channel photographs on pp. 31, 176, 210–211, and 123 are provided
courtesy of Cooking Channel, LLC. © 2012 Cooking Channel, LLC.
10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1
First Edition


Introduction ~ 8
The Tuscan Kitchen: Essentials ~ 12

Appetizers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8
Pastas and Sauces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 6
Risotto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 0
Soups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 4
Salads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Meat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 4
Fish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 0
Vegetables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 8
Pizza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 6
Panini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 0
Desserts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 8
Drinks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 5 8
Acknowledgments ~ 267
Index ~ 269



G : Think of your kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator

this way: If you had to right now, could you whip up
a Spaghetti alla Carbonara (page 74) for a hungry
child? Or a Minestrone (page 114) when you’re
stuck inside the house? Or an Amatriciana pasta
(page 69) for an unexpected visit from a friend
or relative? We can, because when it comes to
shopping, we divide our needs by what’s essential
and ever present, and what’s worth making a
special trip.
I know what’s in my cupboards and fridge at all
times, because for me, shopping is something I look
at as perpetual, not a chore to start and finish. Too
often in America I see people shopping haphazardly, maybe thinking last minute only about the
night ahead, rather than for a rotating menu that
allows for variety and invention. I don’t go to a store
to get inspired. Keep your grocery list on hand!
There’s more to shopping than the grocery
store, too. Find a local butcher, and get to know
what they have to offer. If you have a fishmonger,
do the same. They will have the better, highergrade cuts than your chain supermarket. Become a
regular at your local farmers’ market. Learning to
shop seasonally will automatically make you more
conscious about your shopping and what you need
in your kitchen.
Remember, the true path to shopping like a
Tuscan is thinking about the purity of ingredients,
not shortcuts. It’s not about flavor-infused olive oil,
or prepackaged meals, or a mix in a bag. Once you
start making a few of our recipes, you’ll start to
notice how ingredients go together to best bring
out their individual flavors.



So consider our Pantry section (below) a
peek into the basics we never like to be without
at home. These are the building blocks for a lot of
our recipes. You’re not going to find specialty items
here—meat, fish, that particular cheese, an inseason vegetable or fruit—just the essentials that
we believe should be ready to use at all times.

The Pantry
This is literally
liquid gold for Italians, and should be for you, too.
It’s a part of nearly every recipe, whether kicking
things off in a heated pan, or gracing a dish at the
end, or both. This culinary lifeblood is produced
everywhere in Italy, but naturally we’re biased
toward the justifiably coveted, world-famous
Tuscan kind, which ranges from pale and effervescent to dark, green, peppery, and intense,
depending on the region within the region. What
makes olive oil “extra virgin” is how it’s extracted
from the glorious, dutiful fruit. If the means are
strictly mechanical—wheels or rocks or machines
that squeeze the juice from the olive without
the use of chemical agents—then you have the
premium oil, yielding the most fruitiness with
the least acidity (below 0.8% to get labeled “extra
virgin”). If you’ve ever seen first cold-pressed
olive oil, which is what’s produced from a onetime extraction process without using heat, it’s so
luminescent—green and vibrant—it can actually
look like automotive coolant! Our suggestion
for what to have on hand is twofold: a high-end,
artisanal bottle imported from Tuscany that you
use for that final drizzle that anoints your meal, and


them in a mortar and pestle. But there are plenty of
good store brands, and we buy those, too.
These are the aromatics that work
wonders in all manner of dishes, and fresh—not
dried—is the way to go. B a s i l is the sweet herb
that gives anything it touches a garden vibrancy,
and is the soul of fresh Pesto (page 63). Ro s e m a ry
keeps evil spirits away, if we’re thinking like the
ancients. It gives such a great fragrant kick to
grilled or roasted meat. Sa g e is the essence of
wildness and greenness, savory and silky in equal
measure. B a y l e a v e s bring an almost mysterious
depth and character to stews and sauces. And m i n t
is simply refreshing and invigorating. Then there’s
p a rs l e y , so prevalent as a sprinkled garnish that
its Italian translation—prezzemolo—is often used
to describe people who won’t stay out of your business. And yet, there’s a tinge of herby cleanliness
to freshly chopped Italian parsley that leaving this
common adornment out would just feel wrong.
You might wonder why we didn’t mention oregano,
that other ubiquitous seasoning. The honest
answer is, we just don’t care for it. Buy it if you love
it, though!

a lesser-priced brand of extra virgin olive oil (still
Italian, mind you) that acts as your cooking/frying
oil. Keep it nice and cool if you can—not refrigerated, just away from too much heat or light—and
it’ll last a good while.
When it comes to salting water for pasta,
we prefer a coarse grind like kosh er s a lt .
When finishing a meat or fish, we use either the
­ ranul ated table kind or sea s a lt, which can be
coarse or flaky. If seasoning a sauce, we use pinches
from a little ramekin filled with granulated salt,
because it will melt more quickly in dispersing
flavor. It’s important to remember that regardless
if the salt is fine or coarse, the inherent saltiness
doesn’t change.

You always
want to grind black pepper as needed. The preground kind loses so much flavor after it leaves the
factory that there’s no comparison.

A spicy necessity!
We like to make our own flakes by roasting hot
peppers grown in the summer, letting them dry
for the winter, then opening them up and crushing


t u s c an

k it c h en

We primarily use vinegar in salads.
Italians grow up knowing the pungency of re d
w i n e v i n e g a r , but through Deborah and her
love of leafy entrees we’ve come to appreciate the
softer, more delicate, citrus-friendly sensibilities
of w h i t e w i n e and c h a m p a g n e v i n e g a rs , and
the dark, rich, sweet taste of ­b a l s a m i c . An older,
especially viscous balsamic is also a great smear on
a piece of aged pecorino.

W H O L E P E E L E D P L U M T O M AT O E S ( P E L AT I ) :

These are the basis for many of our sauces: sun-ripened, sweet, and full of flavor. We like them whole
because it allows us to choose whether we want to
purée them, or crush them by hand, depending on
the dish. Unless you’re in the mood to give yourself
extra work during in-season months boiling, cooling, and peeling tomatoes yourself, do what even
the big-time chefs do: Enjoy the canned kind, packaged right after ripening, and hardly an inferior

e s s entia l s


substitute. We like imported plum tomatoes from
the San Marzano region of Italy (indicated by the
DOP seal of approval on the label), but there’s
plenty of proof that big brands like Hunt’s know
what they’re doing, too. You may prefer to buy
28-ounce cans since they’re more ­economical—
just be sure to use any saved, refrigerated tomatoes
within a few days after opening the can.
For good old-fashioned crunch,
nothing beats roma in e . Most kids love it. But
we are especially fond of m ixed b a b y g r een s ,
whether r adi c c h io , ka le , a r u g u la , or sp in a c h .
Freshness is of importance to us, so often the type
of salad we make is dictated by what our farmers’
market has to offer.

When buying onions, look to make sure
they’re not bruised. Our great fondness is for the
r ed o ni o n , which gets used raw when we make
Fish Tacos (page 164) or salads, and is most often
the basis for pasta sauces because its pungent
flavor comes through more deeply. We consider
whi te and yel low on ion s interchangeable when
making soups and stews. In the end though, if a trip
through the produce aisle yields no firm reds, substitute with white or yellow. Firmness is important.

We love shallots for risotto and
salads—they give the flavor of onion without being
as intrusive. As with onions, check for firmness.
Even if it looks good on the outside, a quick grab
might reveal something squishy and old.

These two vegetables
are essential for soffritto (page 51). They are a flavor
foundation! But they are also delightfully crunchy
snacks when raw, especially with a little bowl of
olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to dip
them in.
C A R R O T S A N D C E L E R Y:

You want the most from your garlic, so
buying it fresh is key. The head should be tightly
enclosed, with no signs that it’s germinating or
splitting open. You never want to run out of this, so
keep plenty of heads available!



We always have these on hand for
juicing and zesting. They bring citrusy life to salad
dressings, cocktails, vegetables, and fish.

F LO U R :

The less-refined I t a l i a n d o p p i o z e ro

f l o u r is what we use for all our baking: bread, pizza

dough, and fresh pasta. It’s imported, and therefore
more expensive, but you can always use a l l p u rp o s e f l o u r for any of our baking recipes. We
always use all-purpose flour for recipes involving
dredging or thickening. And if you have an opportunity to buy flour from a local mill, that’s great, too.

For every baking need, there’s g ra n u-

l a t e d s u g a r . When you need to dust cakes or

make meringue, c o n f e c t i o n e rs ’ s u g a r is
essential. We keep ra w s u g a r around for sweetening hot drinks like coffee and tea, and for certain
Don’t settle for cheap honey in a plastic
bottle shaped like a bear. That dab of high-end
sweetness with your sliced cheese is worth the
extra cents.
H O N E Y:

Italians don’t like to use salted butter—
we’re too conscious of our seasoning already. We
use u n s a l t e d b u t t e r for most of our cooking and

Gabriele will drink a glass of cold w h o l e
m i l k every day, because he’s of the belief that
extracting fat from milk goes against how civilization originally nurtured itself. So as you might
imagine, the whole kind makes its way into our
cooking as well.

There’s no escaping the difference between
yolks from fresh, organic, cage-free eggs and those
from chickens grown in cramped quarters, and
kept forever in grocery stores. The former have
defined layers between the bright yellow yolk and
the white, and the latter are pale, soft, and runny.


When making risotto, we use I t a l i a n

s h o rt- g ra i n C a rn a ro l i ri c e , which has a

higher starch content and a firmer texture than


the more commonly used Arborio rice. For all
other basic rice cooking—as a side with beans, for
example—it’s simple lon g - g r a in wh ite r ic e all
the way.
Our pasta chapter dives into this
staple in more detail, but we keep plenty (four to
six boxes) of dried spaghetti and penne around at
any given time.

It’s a cheese—the
big cheese, if you will!—but it’s so much more. It’s
as much a seasoning for Italians as salt or pepper.
But it has to be Parmigiano-Reggiano, stamped
as such on the rind or the packaging, because
anything else will have a different saltiness and
texture. Don’t buy pregrated, either: As it dries, it
loses that softness and a lot of the desired flavor.
And when you’re buying the hunk attached
to the rind, check to make sure you’re getting
more cheese than rind, since you’re buying it by
weight—you don’t want half your cost to be in rind.
That said, rinds are wonderful additions to soups
(see pages 104–119) and risotti (see pages 90–103)
during cooking, so hold on to them—Tuscans don’t
waste anything!
PA R M I G I A N O - R E G G I A N O :

the world of ways to salt dishes, these are two
­wonderfully flavorful alternatives. Especially when
you want a seasoning kick that’s a little more textural, capers and anchovies are great options.
S A LT E D C A P E R S A N D A N C H O V I E S :

We love the rich, large, pulpy fruit from
southern Italy known as C er ig n ola oliv es ,
marinated very simply in olive oil, or sometimes
in a more complex blending of orange, herbs,
and spices. Our favorite olives to marinate are the
small, black Ga eta oliv es , which make for great
appetizers or a salty touch to a salad. The mild,
green, Sicilian C a s telv etr a n o oliv e is a wonderful snack with a glass of wine.

are an incredibly
versatile Tuscan staple that have a butteriness
and creaminess that complement many dishes.
B E A N S : Cannellin i b ea n s


t u s c an

k it c h en

Whether on bruschetta (page 39), in soup, or
accompanying sausages (page 147), a can of these is .
a pantry item you’ll be glad to have around. We are .
also fans of b o rl o t t i b e a n s , which are large, red, .
and striped—we’ll use them in tuna salads or soups, .
or slow-cook them in the fireplace as a side dish.
In Italy, lentils are a traditional
holiday food, especially on New Year’s Eve. We
consider lentils as important as dried beans or split
peas. We don’t want to wait until year’s end to enjoy
them! They’re great for soups, as a side dish, or in
a salad.

Imported polenta from Italy is the way
to go. As for whether to buy re g u l a r p o l e n t a or
i n s t a n t p o l e n t a , think about the level of commitment. The regular kind takes hours to prepare,
with plenty of stirring involved, and occasional
bubbles that thicken and pop. But if you’re already
working on a slow-cooked stew from scratch, it’s
a great textural accompaniment. We mostly use
instant because of the time issues of feeding a
family every day. It’s quicker, thickens nicely, and
we can mold and slice it or fry it as we see fit. And
it’s delicious!
P O L E N TA :

These treasured
cured-pig seasonings—pancetta from the pork
belly and guanciale from the jowl—are our favorite
way to imbue a dish with the essence of meat
without actually bringing a hunk of pork to the
table. Chopped into pieces no larger than a caper,
and used as the basis for a sauce, their sudden
appearance when you bite into a forkful of pasta is
like a small gift of flavor that can elevate any eating
experience. Plus, they freeze well.

We’re not vino snobs. In most Tuscan
restaurants, the vino della casa—or house wine—
is what you drink throughout your meal, because
it’s from the local vineyard. It’s invariably young
and perfectly delicious. When it comes to cooking though, the general rule is to cook with re d
w i n e or w h i t e w i n e you would happily drink.

e s s entia l s






Serves 4–6

D : Gabriele made this for me on our first date. I’d always loved zucchini, but wasn’t

aware that they produced these wonderful flowers that were delicate and strange-­
looking, like a burst of fire on the end of a torch. I cherished the idea of him taking these
beautiful blossoms—straight from his garden—stuffing them with cheese, lightly frying
them, and feeding them to me as if I were a bee being nourished by this tuft of nature.
G : If you’re looking to fall in love in summer, there are few things more poetic than

this dish.
D : And nothing hotter than a man making them for you!
16 zucchini flowers

1 handful fresh Italian parsley,
finely chopped

1 cup ricotta cheese (fresh is best)

Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 (12-ounce) bottle lager beer
Vegetable oil, for frying

Use your fingers to carefully dig a hole on the side of each zucchini flower, opening it
enough with your pointer finger to dig out the stamen that is inside. Gently rinse the
flowers under a sprinkle of cold water, taking care to not damage the thin petals, then
spread them out on a kitchen towel and gently pat dry.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta and lemon zest. Fill a piping bag with
the mixture. Carefully pipe 2 to 3 teaspoons of the ricotta mixture into each flower. Twist
the petals to close tightly so the cheese won’t escape during frying.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, parsley, a couple of generous pinches
of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Slowly start pouring the beer into the mixture,
using a whisk or a fork to mix the batter, and work it enough to eliminate any lumps.
In a heavy skillet, pour in enough oil to come up a half inch, but no more than halfway up the sides. Heat the oil over high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350ºF.
Drag the flowers through the batter, making sure the batter does not get inside the
flower, then slide into the hot oil. Fry for 2 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the
blossom is golden and crisp. Then place them in a large dish on a couple of layers of paper
towel to drain the excess oil. Salt to taste while the oil is still hot. Serve immediately.




Serves 4

G : History tells us that Grisciano shepherds would cook this dish as they traveled from

the mountains of Central Italy to Rome to sell their cheese and pigs. With the cured pig
jowl known as guanciale hanging from their belts, they’d stop to feed themselves by
slicing off bits of the guanciale and making this powerful traditional recipe. In certain
ways it is the mother of two very famous meat-essential pasta sauces, the Amatriciana
(page 69) and the Carbonara (page 74), and though you can be forgiven for substituting
pancetta (which comes from pork belly), guanciale is the way to go. It’s that much more
delicious. Why else would those shepherds keep it with them at all times? I also added
sage leaves to the recipe, since I think that surely a shepherd camping by a river would
forage for some wild herbs to cook with it. (Well, at least I would!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
plus more for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper

½ pound guanciale, cut into ¹⁄³-inch-thick
strips 2 inches long

1 pound pasta, such as penne or spaghetti

5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese,
plus more for serving

5 fresh sage leaves

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
Add the guanciale and cook for about 10 minutes, making sure the meat does not get too
Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, until both the guanciale and garlic
are a golden brown. (If you see the garlic browning too fast, you can always remove it
from the pan and add it back in later.) Add the sage, cook for 2 minutes, and remove the
sauce from the heat.
In an 8- to 12-quart pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta
and use a wooden fork to stir the pasta so it won’t stick together. Cook until al dente.
Drain and add to the sauce in the pan. Toss over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the
3⁄4 cup Pecorino and toss for 1 more minute.
Garnish with grated Pecorino, a drop of extra virgin olive oil, and freshly ground
black pepper.


a nd

sau c es





Serves 6

G : This warm-ish salad makes for a great meal. Octopus requires attention at first,

because if you overdo it during the initial cooking, it gets too mushy. You’re looking for
that window when the octopus has bite, yet breaks in your mouth. Many cooks have their
tricks regarding this—including adding a wine cork to the pot, since the cork contains an
acid that tenderizes protein. But the trick I subscribe to is adding white wine vinegar to
the boil and letting the octopus cool in its own bath of cooking water.
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper

½ cup white wine vinegar
2 russet (baking) potatoes, washed

1 large octopus or 2 medium-to-small
octopi (about 1 pound total)

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 garlic cloves

5 ounces baby arugula

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon finely sliced chives

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the octopus, garlic, carrot, celery, and vinegar, stir well, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 to 45 minutes,
until tender but still a little firm. Remove from the heat and let the octopus cool in the
cooking water for about 30 minutes.
In a large pot, combine the potatoes and cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10
to 15 minutes, until just tender. Drain, cool, peel, and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until hot.
Add the potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until
browned on all sides. Add the tomatoes and toss for 1 minute, or until softened. Set aside.
Using a knife, remove the head from the octopus and cut the tentacles into 1⁄2-inch
pieces. If you use the head, remove the teeth and cartilage with a paring knife. Cut the
head into thin strips no more than 11⁄2 inches long.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until just
smoking. Add the chopped octopus in a single layer, lightly season with salt and pepper,
and cook undisturbed for 5 to 6 minutes, until well seared on one side. Flip and cook an
additional 5 minutes to sear the other side. Remove from the heat.
On a platter, make a bed of the arugula and top with the potatoes and the octopus.
Sprinkle with the chives and dress with the lemon juice.







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