Holiday Test Kitchen 2018: Buono Festa!

Italian: Perfetto. English translation: Perfect. Flawless. Complete.



Vitello Tonnato

Serves 6–8 | Prep time 30 minutes, plus overnight to cool veal in stock


  • 2 lb. veal, top round or loin
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 twig of thyme
  • 1 twig of Italian parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 oz. dry white wine
  • 1 qt. water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Cut carrot, onion, and celery into thumb-thick cubes for mirepoix. Season the veal with salt and pepper, pour the oil into a frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Sear the veal and remove from pan.

Deglaze the pan with white wine, then add water, aromatics herbs (parsley, thyme, bay leaf) and mirepoix. Bring to a boil, add the veal and simmer until the veal is fully cooked. Remove from the flame and cool the veal in the stock overnight. Remove from the stock. Slice very thin and arrange on plate.


Yield 2.5 cups | Prep time 30 minutes


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 c. olive oil
  • 7 oz. tuna in water (can or pouch okay)
  • 5 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tsp. capers
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Place egg and yolks in a blender cup. Add mustard, anchovy, capers, lemon juice and tuna. Blend to a smooth purée. While the blender is running on medium high speed, add the olive oil, pouring in a slow but steady stream, and slowly emulsify. The sauce should have the consistency of a Caesar dressing. You might have to adjust the thickness with some ice water. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary—however, all these ingredients are very strong in flavor and most likely do not need any salt and pepper.

Plating Place the thinly sliced veal on an appetizer plate, cover with sauce, and top with some capers and freshly chopped Italian parsley. Every bite should be enjoyed with a good amount of sauce.

Tagliarini Nero Pomodoro con Pulpo

Serves 6–8 | Prep time 1.5 hours



  • 1 lb. semolina, plus a bit extra for separating/storing pasta
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 egg
  • ¼  tsp. squid ink (available at Maui  Prime Foods, 142 Kupuohi St., Lahaina; or online)

Method Blend water and egg, place semolina in a bowl, add squid ink and a bit of the water/egg mix. Knead, bringing the dough together, adding more water if necessary. Keep kneading until you have a very smooth and black dough. Set aside and let the dough rest for at least two hours.

Place the dough on a flat surface (a granite or wood kitchen counter works perfectly). With a rolling pin, roll the dough to a very thin sheet. Fold the sheet in half and cut into thin tagliarini. Place on a sheet pan and sprinkle with semolina for easier handling. Bring salt water to a boil and blanch the pasta till al dente.


Yield approx. 4 cups | Prep time 1.5 hours


  • 2 lb. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 whole tomatoes, cubed
  • 4 oz. shallots, julienned
  • 4 oz. garlic, slivered
  • 1 stalk of basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Place the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the shallots and garlic, and fry for a few minutes, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the cherry tomatoes, cubed tomatoes and stalk of basil. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then lower heat to a simmer.

Let the pomodoro sauce simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the basil stalk and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Chef’s recommendation This pasta dish can accompany octopus, shrimp, clams, scallops, and other seafood; or be served with just the pomodoro sauce.

Brasato al Barolo

Serves 4–6 | Prep time 3 hours


  • 2 lb. boneless beef short ribs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 stalk Italian parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 6” sprig of thyme
  • 1 4” sprig of rosemary
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. cracked black peppercorn
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of Barolo
  • 2 qt. brown stock
  • 3 tbsp. cooking oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Marinate the short ribs with the next 11 ingredients. Cover and place in refrigerator. Marinate for at least 24 hours.

Remove the short ribs from the marinade, season with salt and pepper. Place a frying pan with oil on medium-high heat and sear the ribs on all sides. Plate and set aside. Bring the marinade to a slow boil and skim off the foam. Deglaze the pan with a little marinade. Place the ribs into a Dutch oven or deep baking pan and cover with the marinade and brown stock. Cover with parchment paper and foil, or the lid of the Dutch oven, and place in the preheated oven. Braise at 320°F for 2–3 hours.


Yield 6–8 servings | Prep time 30 minutes


  • 2 lb. baby carrots, preferably local
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Clean the carrots, blanch in boiling salt water for a few minutes, drain and cool in ice water. Remove from ice water. Before serving, place a frying pan on medium-high heat, add the butter, shallots and sugar. Add the carrots and sauté until hot. Season with salt and pepper.


Serves 6–8 | Prep time 1.5 hours


  • 1 lb. coarse polenta, preferably imported from Italy
  • 8 c. water
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼  c. extra virgin olive oil, or butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method Bring the water to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly stir in the polenta. Cook on low heat, stirring for 20–30 minutes, or until tender. With a wooden spoon, stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour polenta onto an oiled sheet pan and spread evenly. Let it cool completely, then refrigerate till service. Portion polenta by tearing into pieces, then place in an oven-safe platter. Drizzle with olive oil or butter and top with grated Parmesan. Place in oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes, till golden.

Chef’s recommendation Slice the beef and place on a family-style platter with plenty of sauce. Arrange the carrots around the beef for an attractive presentation. Serve polenta on the side.

Zabaglione di Grappa

Serves 4–6 | Prep time 40 minutes, plus overnight marinating of figs



  • 1 lb. fresh figs, cut in half
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 c. red wine
  • ½  c. marsala
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 piece star anise

Method Place red wine, marsala, sugar, cinnamon and star anise in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove and pour over the figs. Cover and let the figs marinate in refrigerator overnight.


Yield approximately 5 cups | Prep time 20 minutes


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 c. white wine
  • 1 oz. grappa
  • 5 tbsp. sugar

Method Mix all ingredients together and place in an oversized bowl. Fill a pan halfway with water, place on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Place the bowl with the zabaglione on top and whisk until it stiffens and doubles in volume. Be careful that it does not get too hot, or the eggs will overcook and scramble.

Chef’s recommendation Remove the figs from the marinade and place in individual serving bowls. Top the figs with the zabaglione and serve immediately. Zabaglione should be enjoyed while it is warm.



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