I was going to do a giant post featuring the two chickens I bought a couple of weeks ago but I postponed it, again, for this Italian pasta dish featuring an item many people may not associate with Italy … chicken livers.
I love chicken livers and have had a craving for a while so I picked up two pounds on Saturday and set aside half a pound for use in this delicious dish that I ran across while net surfing a while ago.
Pasta alla Caruso is a chicken liver dish named in honour of the Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, who was said to love it, and a speciality of his home town of Naples. The Italian name, “Pasta Con Fegatini Di Pollo, Cipolle E Funghi” refers to the ingredients … chicken livers, San Marzano tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.
Pasta alla Caruso – serves 2
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb (225 gm) fresh chicken livers *
1/4 cup finely diced onion (or 2 tbsp sauted)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 lb (225 gm) sliced mushrooms (half button and half cremini)
1 tsp dried herb mixture (equal parts dried parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine (Italian preferred ie Sangiovese)
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 – 1 /2 cups canned, peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
salt and ground black pepper, as needed
* If you don’t like chicken livers, slice a zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry. Drain on paper towels and then use them in place of the fried chicken livers.
Garnish – grated Pecorino Roman (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if that’s all you have)
200 gm thick pasta cooked according to package directions ie fettuccine or linguine or even bucatini
Puree the plum tomatoes and set aside until needed.
Rinse and trim the chicken livers. Drain well and cut into 1/2 in (12-13 mm) wide strips. Sprinkle about 1/8-1/4 tsp salt over the liver. Heat up the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the livers and fry over medium/medium-high heat until firm. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed.
Wipe out the saute pan, add the unsalted butter and saute the diced onion over medium heat until it’s started to pick up some colour.
Add the sliced mushrooms to the saute pan, sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top, and saute them until they start getting golden brown but are still a bit firm. Add the dried herbs and stir through.
Add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes until you’ve coated the onions/mushrooms and the mixture is fairly dry. Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and the pureed tomatoes and liquid. Cook, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and infused into the vegetables.
Add the cooked chicken livers and any juices that may have come out of them and stir through. Cook just until the chickens are warmed through. You don’t want them to get tough.
Taste the mixture and add whatever else you might need – some more salt, some ground pepper, or even a bit of lemon if the sauce seems a bit flat.
Divide the freshly cooked pasta between two plates, ladle half the sauce over each portion and grate the cheese over the top.
Serve with a glass of the red wine.
The rest of the chicken livers were sauteed in vegetable oil with a sprinkle of salt, Hungarian paprika and a medium sized onion. Just like my mother used to make for me. There’s nothing like chicken livers over mashed potatoes or mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta). At least, I think so.