Archive | October, 2011

Slow Cooked Chili and Homemade Apple Pie – As All American as Ricky Bobby!

26 Oct

Slow Cooked Chili Recipe and Homemade Apple Pie
Recipe by

When it comes to crock-pot cooking and baking, Mrs. Paggi Pazzo has yours truly beat hands down! So when she suggests she wants to make chili with cornbread cup cakes and homemade apple pie, I gladly concede the kitchen to her. It’s a beautiful thing to come home and smell the wonderful aroma of the chili fragrancing the kitchen as it slow cooks for hours. On top of that, we went apple picking as a family recently so making fresh apple pie with fresh ingredients is the sweet post-dinner celebration that puts a smile on everybody’s face. You really can’t get anymore American than that, can you? Even Ricky Bobby would endorse this meal and he would say it with all due respect!

The slow cooking chili process takes about 8 hours and the ingredients are mainly made up of ground beef, beans, garlic, tomatoes, chili powder and cumin. Throw them together and it’s slow cookin’ heaven! When the chili is finally done and the long wait is over, spread some shredded Taco cheese on top and let it melt before eating. My wife also makes some homemade cornbread cupcakes that are a nice addition to the chili. I’ve got one hand on the cornbread and the other with a fork digging into the chili, because I like to party! But you can substitute the cornbread for tortilla chips if you prefer something with more crunch. Either way, it’s a great meal and most likely a lot healthier than what you’d find on the Ricky Bobby Family dinner table (and without the grace).

For the apple pie dessert my wife takes 5-6 apples that she peels and cuts out the cores, chops, etc… She then adds brown sugar, flour, nutmeg, butter, cinnamon and mixes the ingredients together before adding to the pie crust bottom. It’s a good thing she likes to bake because I am not very good with desserts and if I were, I’d be 300 lbs. by now. So there you have it, an All American meal and Paggi Pazzo’s first posting of my wife’s recipes – enjoy, I know I did!

Slow cooked Chili recipe from Paggi Pazzo

Slow Cooked Chili Recipe

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 8 hours

Total time: 8 hours 20 min

Yield: 10 servings


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 29 ounces diced tomatoes drained
  • 32 ounces kidney beans drained
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 onions
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup blended shredded Taco Cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Add ground beef to a pan and cook until browned
  2. Drain grease from browned ground beef pan and add to crock pot
  3. Chop garlic and onion finely and add all ingredients into crock pot and set to low
  4. Slow cook for 8 hours while adding a sprinkle of chili powder, cumin, and pepper every 45 minutes
  5. Serve into bowl with shredded cheese and enjoy

Slow Cooked Chile Recipe

5 out of 5
stars based on 5 ratings.

Homemade Apple Pie Recipe

Fresh Apple Pie Recipe Photo from Mrs. Paggi Pazzo

Fresh Apple Pie Recipe Photo from Mrs. Paggi Pazzo with apples from the orchard.

By Paggi Pazzo
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 50 min
Total time: 1 hour 20 min
Yield: 10 servings


1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
5-6 Cortland apples
Store bought pie crust
1 glass pie plate

Cooking Directions

1. Peel & cut approximately 6 large apples into wedges (removing apple cores)
2. Mix flour, sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt & apples in bowl
3. Lay out pie crust over bottom of glass pie plate and place mixture on top
4. Slice butter thinly and spread out evenly across the top of the mixture
5. If desired add a bit more sugar & cinnamon for flavor (I like my pie sweet!)
6. Also add more apples if there’s room (the filling should rise above the pie plate).
7. If the apples seem watery you can also add a bit more flour for thickening
8. Add top crust over mixture
9. Secure edges together with a fork & cut little slits into the top of the pie to let air circulate
10. Set oven to 375 degrees and cook for 50 minutes or until pie crust is brown
11. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then ready to serve (a la mode is best!)

Orecchiette alla Barese – Southern Italian Puglia Pasta Dish from the Boot!

20 Oct

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe
Recipe by

A fun, easy, and hearty meal that my mother made quite often growing up was Orecchiette alla Barese, which is originated from the southern city of Bari within the region of Puglia (when looking at a map of Italy, Puglia is the area where the heel of the boot resides). This classic dish includes their local pasta orecchiette, which translates in English to “little ears”, mixed with rapini (broccoli rabe), sausage and garlic. I have modified this dish and incorporated white wine and Pecorino Romano to take away some of the sharpness from the rapini while preserving some tradition for one of Puglia’s finest dishes.

For my Orecchiette alla Barese, I boil the rapini for about 15 minutes with salt added prior to dilute the bitterness. I also prefer to grill/cook Italian sweet sausages separately (you can use hot for a spicier flavor) before adding to the sauce to limit the amount of grease or fat. Once those steps are completed, add finely chopped garlic and olive oil to a pan and let simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Once the garlic appears to turn a shade of brown, add the rapini and stir for 10-15 minutes at low-to-medium heat. Then add white wine and the sausages (chopped into pieces) and cover pan for another 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, boil the pasta and get your grated Pecorino Romano ready. Drain the orecchiette (save some of the pasta water if the sauce begins to get absorbed by the rapini) and add to the rapini sauce with a healthy helping of grated Romano – then you’re ready to be one with Puglia. More traditional recipes of this dish call for anchovy or peperoncino as I’m sure someone from that area would suggest my take on this is more Roman (shocker!). But the essence of this classic is the rapini and orecchiette, giving it that Puglia panache like an Antonio Cassano goal for his home town Bari team!

Southern wines from Puglia and Sicily have been getting a lot more recognition over the last 10 years (and it’s about time!) and one in particular, Primitivo is a Puglia based red wine that will go delightfully with the orecchiette. Now, the classic text book tradition is to have a white wine with a white pasta but this red is good enough to break that pasta segregation mentality (that’s going to be my political slogan for when I run for office). If white is your choice, try the Sicilian La Segreta, very light and a great partner for a variety of pastas. So there you have it, southern Italian pasta from the heel of the Italian boot, it’ll kick you in the junk and you’ll love every bite of it.

Orecchiette alla Barese from Paggi Pazzo

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe

Prep time: 30 min

Cook time: 30 min

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings


  • 1/2 pound orecchiette
  • 2 sweet Italian sausages (or hot)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Cooking Directions

  1. Boil rapini for 15 minutes in boiling water with salt then drain, chop and move to bowl
  2. Grill sausages (or broil) until outside is crispy and cut into slices
  3. Add olive oil to pan and add garlic at medium-to-high heat for 3-5 minutes
  4. Add rapini to pan with salt and pepper and saute for 10-15 minute at low heat, then add sausage and white wine, stir and then cover with lid
  5. In another pot, boil water and add orecchiette and cook for 12 minutes or until al dente
  6. Drain orecchiette from pot and add to pan of sausage and rapini then add Pecorino Romano (save some of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thin and add with the Pecorino, stirring with the heat on low)
  7. Ready to serve

Orecchiette alla Barese Recipe

4 out of 5
stars based on 25 ratings.

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket & Margaritas – Go Big or Go Home!

13 Oct

Texas Style Smoked Barbecue Beef Brisket Recipe
Recipe by

Long holiday weekends are perfect for catching up on yard work and then spoiling yourself with smoked Texas style beef brisket (isn’t that what everyone does???). The boys down south know a thing or two about smoking beef and when they say “go big or go home” (as one Texas friend I know likes to boast), the translation is we’re gonna smoke a 10 pound beast of meat and declare – “don’t Mess with Texas!In a not so Texas fashion, I used a 3-1/2 pound brisket because I felt that smoking beef for 9-10 hours was about as long as I could manage (clearly I wouldn’t last very long in Dallas). Today I’m sharing my smoked beef brisket and margarita recipe, providing a Tex-Mex flavor down, around, and just over the border because here at Paggi Pazzo, we’re always looking for a brand new fiesta in the making. Smoking Texas Style Beef Brisket Recipe from Paggi Pazzo

To get a good brisket, it’s important to see a butcher and have the beef cut specifically to your liking (I went to my local super market). Now, you can get the real big-@ss Texas sized briskets that are 7+ pounds but those can take 15-18 hours to smoke so I chose to grab something half that size because….well, at some point I was going to want to eat it – right?!?!? Like with ribs, I try to create a spicy rub of paprika and chili powder that I off-set with a sweet “mop” dressing consisting of apple vinegar cider, Budweiser, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. I also throw in some dried rosemary and onion powder for my rub/mop to give it a little something extra, so feel free to do the same and experiment with your own.

I like to start real early in the morning and get my firebox going with 3 chimney starters filled with lump hardwood charcoal and prior to, I soak hickory wood chunks with mesquite wood chips overnight for the smoking (and don’t get all bush league on me by using lighter fluid to start your fire! Olive oil and a paper towel will do). Try to maintain a temperature of 200-250 degrees and to do so, you’ll likely need to add both wood chunks and hardwood charcoal throughout the process and continue to mop your brisket every 45 minutes to an hour (also add a pan of water under the grates to help provide moisture during the smoking process). Many experts talk about the brisket “stalling” after about 5-6 hours, where the meat temperature does not increase and I wasn’t convinced of this but true to form, it did happen. To combat the stalling, I placed and wrapped the brisket in aluminum foil so the beef soaks in it’s own juices and tenderizes. By hour 8, the beef temperature had increased and had become even more tender (and that’s how we like it at Paggi Pazzo; keep it tender and keep it classy!). I also added some BBQ sauce in a small foil pan to slow cook with the brisket for the final hour (I don’t make my own because I’m a poser! But feel free to use your favorite BBQ sauce or showoff and make your own). After 9 hours I move the beef off the grill/smoker and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing and if you have left overs, you can make smoked beef brisket sandwiches, which is what I did with some sauteed onions and peppers.Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket Recipe from Paggi Pazzo

To go along with the smoked beef brisket, I made Mexico’s signature cocktail – the Matador! Just kidding, I don’t even know if that’s a drink – plus I think it’s Spanish, right? Anyway, I made a Margarita of course. My buddies Pete, Rob and myself are always in search for the “perfect” margarita and we’ve all tried to create them ourselves. My rendition includes the Cuervo Tradicional tequila which is great for margaritas and a much better quality than the other Cuervo products so spend a little extra and taste the difference. Don Julio is the Numero Uno tequila most Mexicans I’ve spoken with swear by, but if you have a really nice expensive bottle of tequila chances are it’s better suited for sipping like a Cognac than adding to a lime mix cocktail. I mean, you’re not gonna take a Chateau Loudenne Médoc and make Sangria out of it, are you?….Are You? SERIOUSLY???? Give me that bottle…. I also try not to use too much mix because they’re usually so over-sweetened and very fattening but the Williams & Sonoma mix is low in sugar content and offers a nice mild taste. So there you have it, Texas style smoked beef brisket with an ice cold margarita – “Remember the Alamo!” (but don’t forget the tequila).

Margarita Recipe from Paggi Pazzo, Viva Mexico!

Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket Recipe

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 9 hours

Total time: 10 hours

Yield: 12 servings


  • 1 (3-4 pound) Beef Brisket
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 12 ounces Budweiser beer
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 ounces bbq sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare rub by adding paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, sugar, brown sugar, garlic powder, and rosemary into bowl and mix
  2. Add rub to beef brisket on both sides and add a little olive oil over rub. Wrap and place in refrigerator overnight
  3. Prepare mop dressing by adding beer, water, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and onion powder and stir. Let cool in refrigerator overnight
  4. Soak hickory wood chunks and mesquite wood chips overnight, then drain before use.
  5. Prepare smoker/grill with 3 chimney starters full of hardwood lump charcoal and when turned grey, place in smoker-box with 2 hickory wood chunks and a handful of mesquite wood chips. As brisket smokes, continue to add more wood chunks and charcoal when necessary to maintain 200-225 degree temperature.
  6. Lay brisket fat side up, and close grill and smoker-box for 1 hour, then add mop dressing over brisket (continue to do so every 45 minutes to an hour).
  7. After 6 hours, place brisket fat side down into aluminum foil and wrap (this will help the meat cook throughout and tenderize).
  8. After 8 hours, add BBQ sauce into small aluminum tray and allow to heat
  9. After 8 1/2 to 9 hours, check brisket to see if internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, if so, take brisket out of grill/smoker and let sit for 30 minutes before slicing.
  10. Slice beef brisket across the grain and serve with a spoonful of BBQ sauce

Smoked Beef Brisket Recipe

4.5 out of 5
stars based on 18 ratings

Margarita Recipe
By Paggi Pazzo
Prep time: 5 min
Total time: 5 min
Yield: 1 serving


2 limes
1 shot Cuervo Tradicional Tequila or Don Julio Tequila
1/2 shot Cointreau
1/2 shot Triple Sec
1 shot Williams & Sonoma margarita mix
handful of ice
1 cocktail shaker

Cooking Directions

1. Cut thin slice of lime and cut in half then put aside
2. Slice rest of limes in half and squeeze into shaker
3. Add shot of tequila, 1/2 shot of Cointreau, 1/2 shot of Triple Sec, and 1 shot of Williams & Sonoma mix into shaker
4. Shake for 1 minute
5. Add ice to margarita glass and then and shaker mix
6. Add thin lime pieces previously cut and serve

Click here for full Beef Brisket Recipe, Perfect Margarita Recipe and other Paggi Pazzo recipes.

Chicken Stuffed Caprese Recipe – Stuff This and Hold the Merlot!

6 Oct

Chicken Stuffed Caprese Recipe with Penne Pasta
Recipe by

One of the earliest recipes I have emulated and catered as my own is Chicken stuffed Caprese, which is really another form or variation of Chicken/Veal Saltimbocca. When I was in high-school my friend Pete and I used to cook in an Italian-American restaurant called, Tony’s Italian Villa (now, it’s not in business anymore but I can assure you it had nothing to do with a couple of teenage high-school kids making your entrée and pizza). There I learned a lot about the Italian-American methods of cooking home-comfort meals such as chicken and veal parm, chicken piccatta, veal marsala, etc… All traditional foods that were slightly or very different from their Italian origins and with one in particular, I had a slight love affair; the Saltimbocca (and my waist-line proved it!). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed and modified this classic to become my own in a diced tomato sauce with garlic and penne pasta. By taking the holy trinity of Italian cooking (fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato) I’ve put the colors of the Italian flag into a chicken fillet and embraced a meal that is the perfect remedy for a cold fall or winter evening.

The ingredients and preparation for Chicken Stuffed Caprese are easy to find and put together, and all of the seasoning takes place inside the chicken. I like to slice the chicken across into 2 thin pieces but you can also cut a pocket into the chicken or use 2 very thin chicken breast fillets as well. Whatever you choose, stack the fresh mozzarella with plum tomato slices and basil, and add a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place the other chicken slice on top (or if you have a pocket cut, fold the chicken over) and use toothpicks to keep the Caprese filling inside – and that’s really it! From there make your sauce and boil your pasta and when it’s all said and done, you throw it together and crack open a bottle of red! I like to enjoy a standard Italian table wine like a Montepulciano, Chianti or Sangiovese for these types of dishes but feel free to open your own favorite, just don’t make it Merlot! (not that I have anything against Merlot….except for everything! And I’ve been neglecting the French for far too long on this blog when it comes to wine and I plan on a French dish or two coming up – so hang in there my Bleu-Blanc-Rouge mes amis). There you have it, Chicken Stuffed Caprese from Paggi Pazzo, enjoy!

Chicken Stuffed Caprese with Penne Recipe from Paggi Pazzo

Chicken Stuffed Caprese Recipe

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 40 min

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 servings


  • 2 (8 oz.) chicken breast fillets
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 4 ounces crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1 small carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta (Barilla)
  • 1/4 cup Reggiano Parmigiano
  • 8 toothpicks

Cooking Directions

  1. Chop finely garlic, onion, and 4 basil leaves (save the remaining basil for the caprese stuffing)
  2. Clean chicken and slice in half or fold in half
  3. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper, then add slices of fresh mozzarella on top of the sliced chicken (or within if cut in half) and top with slices of tomato, fresh basil, and olive oil.
  4. Close chicken if cut in half or place other half of fillet on top of covered chicken and place 2 toothpicks on both ends of fillets to keep whole
  5. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to large pan with garlic, onion, and basil. Cook at medium-to-high heat for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add diced and crushed tomatoes and carrot (washed and peeled), and lower heat
  7. In a different pan, add olive oil and chicken stuffed caprese and sear at high heat for 4-5 minutes per side to form a crispy outside
  8. Once seared on both sides, add chicken to large pan of sauce and cook for 25-30 minutes
  9. Prepare pot for pasta by adding water and salt and when boiling, add penne pasta and cook and stir for 11 minutes or until pasta is al dente
  10. Drain pasta through strainer and add pasta to sauce and chicken for 2-3 minutes, then reomve from stove
  11. Transfer to plate and add grated Reggiano Parmigiano, ready to serve

Chicken Stuffed Caprese Recipe
with Penne Pasta
5 out of 5
stars based on 10 ratings.

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