There's a Mole in Our Midst

For years now, Markipedia has insisted that someone in our inner circle is a mole, leaking out details - to the media, to other chefs, to the world - about what I have been up to in the kitchen.

I call it KitchiLeaks.

There was the year I brought home a dusty bottle of pomegranate molasses from a Middle Eastern grocery store in Washington, DC. None of my friends had heard of it. Everyone loved it and thought I was a genius for finding it. A week later, Saveur came out with the Saveur 100 list and, wouldn't you know it, pomegranate molasses was at the top of their list. Who told them?

As soon as Mugolio Pinecone Bud Syrup debuted on ChefShop.com, I bought some and, yet again, it showed up as "the new thing" in Oprah magazine. Et tu, Oprah?

And pretty much anything Martha did, I had just done in my own kitchen… and maybe just a little bit better.

Don't even get me started on Bon Appétit, or the New York Times.

At first I thought Mark was just being a supportive and dutiful spouse… but then I became suspicious when it happened repeatedly.

Most recently, it is with my recipe for corzetti. I actually have several Italian friends who have never heard of this distinctive regional pasta form, yet I have been thinking about them for 15 years. I was on the cutting edge… or so I thought.

When I arrived home from Italy last month, proud to bring a thrillingly obscure corzetti stamp with me, I made the pasta the very next day. Two days later, the mail brought the Pasta Issue of Saveur.

And you guessed it; one of the first articles was about a Ligurian wood carver who makes corzetti stamps! Seriously, how annoying is that?

Actually, it wasn't annoying at all, because he was able to confirm what sauces are traditional with corzetti. Pesto, he said, was the most traditional. And a sugo bianco. This confirmed what I had read online after my many cookbooks failed to turn up any info: pesto and meat sauce.

A little further research brought me to a marjoram pesto, in addition to pesto alla Genovese, and another sauce of anchovies, capers, pine nuts, and marjoram.

The information I got from the Saveur article was helpful in confirming the type of meat sauce served with corzetti. The sources that said simply “meat sauce” but didn't differentiate between the red vs. white sauce. White sauce - or sugo bianco - makes much more sense.

Today, I am giving you three recipes to enjoy with your corzetti. First, a pesto of marjoram, walnuts, pine nuts, and cheese. Second, the anchovy and caper sauce. Finally, the ragù bianco from Il Cucchiaio d’Argento, a wonderful resource for traditional Italian cuisine.

Of these three sauces, you may ask, do we have a favorite? We don't - each satisfies our mood swing du jour. We like all three, and we think you will, too. The first two, if you are a fan of marjoram will delight you, as so few dishes feature this fragrant, floral, sweet herb. The ragù is perfect for traditionalists, and seems as though it might have many additional applications - for a recipe that has only the simplest of ingredients, it truly produces a luscious ragù!

Please let me know what you think of the sauces if you try them. Remember to dress the corzetti sparingly so as not to cover the design completely.

In the end, I really do know there isn't a mole in my inner circle; for one thing, magazines and television shows are planned way too far in advance. New trends are just in the air. I do like thinking, though, that I am somehow right up there with the cool kids. At least in things culinary.

~ David

Pesto di Maggiorana
From A Little Kitchen in Genoa

1/4 cup pine nuts 
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 ounce tender marjoram leaves
pinch salt
3/4 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano
olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

In a mortar and pestle, mash the nuts, marjoram, and cheese together with a pinch of salt into a very thick paste. This will be a bit coarse; if you want it finer, use a spice grinder or food processor. Add the oil, one tablespoon at a time, until a good pesto consistency is reached. Then stir in the butter.

Makes about 1/2 cup.

Salsa di Acciughe, Capperi, Pinoli, e Maggiorana
Adapted from the recipe by James Benson

4 tablespoons European butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed if salted
6 anchovies, chopped
freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves, plus extra
zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Pecorino Romano, for shaving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta into boiling salted water and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the butter and until it begins to turn brown. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and mix well. Add the shallot and cook until translucent. Add capers and anchovies and continue to sweat. Add a drop of the pasta water to slow the cooking. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Drain pasta and add to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add the 3 tablespoons marjoram leaves, lemon zest, and a little pasta water. Finish with the remaining olive oil.

Divide pasta and sauce among 6 pasta bowls. Top with some additional marjoram, pine nuts, and a shaving of Pecorino.

Ragù Bianco
From Il Cucchiaio d’Argento

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 ounces pancetta, diced
7 ounces ground pork
7 ounces ground veal
scant 1/2 cup white wine
scant cup chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons cream

Heat the olive oil and butter together in shallow pan. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and pancetta and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to high, add meat and mix well. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Add the wine and cook until it is evaporated. Season to taste with salt, then add a ladleful of stock. Lower the heat and cook (simmer) for 1 1/2 hours, adding more stock as the sauce dries out. Finally, stir in the cream to give it a more mellow flavor.

Serves 4-6.


  1. David, bravo !
    they do look beautiful... hum... now I am tempted to get a stamp myself too :)
    I have never eaten them and I have know them mainly from US websites: as I said before I have not found many references about stamped Corzetti in my cookery book...
    anyway: they look really something and the ragù bianco too.

    + can I ask u about yr fab mortare and pestle: I was temped to buy a wooden pestle (I have a marble one): are u happy with it? does it have enough weight to crush things?
    (talking about Liguria food: today, I finally nailed down cooking farinata (what the tuscans call cecina) in my old le creuset frying pan.... thus avoiding to spend over 50 euros on a copper testo: really good) . speak u soon, ciao, stefano
    ps pretty annoyingly the system keeps on not recognizing me... anyway.. it is me! :)

    1. Grazie, Stefano... I loved making these sauces, and am especially enamores with the ragù bianco and the marjoram pesto. And it was really fun actually making it in my mortar and pestle. I love my mortar and miss the marble pestle that came with it. It broke just after we moved into this house. I managed to find the wooden one but keep looking for a marble one. Yes, you have to work a bit harder with the wood, but it does a good job. We got this one from Lucca. I didn't think to look for the pestle when we were there.

      I found a nice article about corzetti on an Italian blog (in English) called A Little Kitchen in Genoa. And there is the article in the recent Saveur magazine: https://www.saveur.com/pasta-stamp-workshop-italy - so, while the article is American, this is definitely an Italian form!

      So sorry about it not recognizing you... I wish I had an answer but I a working on blog issues with a computer person- perhaps he can help!

      Ciao, dsa

    2. ...from what see, most people use a wooden pestle and a marble mortar: I wonder if it is better.. who knows
      ... thanks for that nice blog on Ligurian cooking, which is very good indeed (I am tempted to make a Ligurian panettone this year actually) s

    3. I really like that blog - am glad I found it!

  2. You are the leader of the cool kids!!!

    1. Completely agree! But I wouldn't rule out the leaks... Big magazines are planned in advance, true, but so are your posts - I know that for a fact.

    2. Thanks to you both! I love being a cool kid...

  3. KitchiLeaks! That's the kind of wordplay that gets my giggle. These recipes grab a hold as well. Thanks, GREG

    1. Wordplay is, indeed, something you and I have in common!

  4. I'm one of those Italians who had never heard of Corzetti when I was living in Italy! This is another sign of how diverse is Italian cuisine and how 'regional' it still is. Not surprisingly, I might get a better view of the whole country from over here in Canada...

    Fantastic recipes! All three, but I am dying to try corzetti with acciughe, capperi, pinoli, and maggiorana. I must get a hold of a stamp.

    Great post and amazing pics as always, btw!

    1. I think you definitely need to try the pesto, too - so utterly different from its Genovese sister!

  5. Ok, now I really want to get my hands on a corzetti stamp. I was wondering what kind of sauce you'd be showing us when you published last weeks recipe for this beautiful pasta. Not just one sauce, but three! Love it. Especially the anchovy and caper one.

    1. You need to try all three sauces, John - but I want to know what the first thing you cooked upon your return home! (Coffee doesn't count!)

  6. Well, my corzetti stamp is ordered . . . now to become user-friendly with the sauces ere some magazine publishes all three during the coming week and makes me an uncool hanger-on :) ! Think the anchovy and capers one is ringing loud bells . . .

    1. That one seems to be the favorite, Eha! I can't wait to hear about your adventures in corzetti making!

  7. Your posts always bring a smile to my face!

  8. Kichileaks? I love it...

    But seriously, the corzetti all look crazy good. If pressed, I think I'd choose the anchovy, just because I love anchovies, although the ragù bianco would give it a run for its money. And reminds me that I haven't actually tried it, something I need to correct soon.

    The pesto also sounds nice but I wonder if it wouldn't obscure the lovely pattern on the pasta?

    1. Thanks, Frank! I think I have become partial to the ragù bianco. It is truly luscious! And the pesto went on light and the pattern was fine! Really, you need to try all three!

      BTW - I lived your accidental pun - "if pressed..."

  9. Having never met you in person, I still will say the you ARE one of the cool kids and probably were when you were still a kid! Thanks for all the inspiration, all the time.

    1. Thanks, Caterina! Maybe we should never meet so I can always be "cool" in your eyes!

  10. David, it seems great minds think alike with you and a few others in the food publishing world! I learn from your gorgeous blog every time I read a post :) That sauce with capers and anchovies sounds divine. I secretly love anchovies, but I rarely use them because I'm all alone in that romance at my house. Truly gorgeous recipes!

    1. The nice thing about anchovies is that they hide easily and no one - meaning your family - knows they are there!

  11. Well David, this just confirms that you are ahead of all of all the magazines when it comes to create delicious pasta with different sauces. The majoram pesto and anchovy sauce are on my list to make.

  12. You are the trendsetter, David... what a fun story and lovely recipes! Wishing I could eat pasta. x

    1. That is why I am glad my allergy is to garlic! I don't think I could ever give up pasta, Liz!

  13. I will take door # 3 as that Ragù Bianco sounds fantastic. Now, what to do about the pasta?!
    P.S. you are the coolest trendsetter!

    1. When you are here, Susan, we can make the pasta if you want! And, as you already texted to me, can you believe the NY Times showed off the ragù bianco literally the day after I posted? See? I am not totally crazy!

  14. I really like the pesto sauce, I like to keep my pasta simple with either pesto or just a drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil.

    1. I love this pesto, Emma - it is so different from all the others. Marjoram is definitely an underused herb, and I am wondering why it is so prevalent in Liguria.

  15. This is so timely David (you trend-setter, you). Since I am eating (mostly) locally, I think this is the year I need to try some things, like making pasta, that I've been avoiding for years. Wish me luck!

    1. Yeah, that's me - trend setter! :)You definitely need to make pasta. If you want, we can do a Skype tutorial!

  16. You are just "in the know"! How cool is that!? I'm guessing the non-tomato sauces are chosen so that the patterns on the pasta are more visible, no? Maybe not, but these are lovely choices and one day I will buy my own stamp! :)

    1. It is my guess, as well, Christina - who would want to hide those beautiful designs?


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