Tag Archives: Chef Neil Fusco

Harnessing the will atunes appetite to Godly delights

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “Lent is a time of conversion and penance and a favorable time to rediscover faith in God as the criterion of our life, and the life of the church.” Rediscovering, as in growing in our faith, is a life-long journey. Each year, our dear Catholic Church gives us this opportunity during the Lenten season.

It is the customary work of sacrificing, that of giving something up during the Lenten season, that strengthens and disciplines our will so that we are not slaves to pleasure, whether it be material or otherwise. Sacrifice and prayer are key to building good habits, better known as virtues. Good habits are built and developed by disciplining the will. Denying yourself unsinful pleasures (such as not having your favorite pasta dish), will help discipline your will so when the time comes to combat temptations of sinful pleasures you will have the courage and spiritual strength to potentially make the right choice.

Lent is the perfect time for disciplining our will. Most would agree that at times, though we know right from wrong, we use our God-given free will to choose the wrong or evil that we did not intend. St. Paul the Apostle provides an excellent example illustrating this point in Romans 7:19 when he says: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Read the rest of Romans 7 for more. St. Paul, one of the most brilliant Scripture writers, humbly acknowledges the power of the human will.

Blessed John Duns Scotus (14th c.) writes that of the two faculties, he places primacy on a person’s free will over his intellect. This scholarly Franciscan friar, teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, known as the “Subtle Doctor,” explains that just because one has knowledge of right and wrong, it does not guarantee one’s choosing rightly. Accepting that at times our will reigns over our intellect, it is essential to train and discipline our will in good habits, thus turning them into virtues, which strengthen us to opt for the good.

Our goal for Lent should be to strengthen our prayer life, and engage sacrifice (mortification of our will). Self-denial helps build good habits in making sound choices in this life, clearing the path for our worthiness in the next.

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp, a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.

 

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe • Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 bunches of broccoli rabe
1 lb. orecchiette
5 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
Large pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
Pecorino Romano, grated

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add chopped broccoli rabe, cover to return to boil. Once boiling, uncover and let boil for 5 more minutes. Drain broccoli rabe into a colander over a bowl, reserving all water.

In a large sauté pan, combine oil, garlic, and red pepper over medium heat. When browned, add blanched broccoli rabe with ¼ cup of reserved water. Stir to coat.

Cover the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally until broccoli rabe becomes creamy. In a separate pot, boil orecchiette in remaining broccoli water. When al dente, drain pasta and add to the broccoli rabe.

Toss and serve with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Extend Christmas joy, right from your kitchen

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! People are generally trying to be more attentive to others. There’s an aura that warms their hearts. The joy of Christmas awakens consciousness to give of oneself.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it beautifully in a 2005 homily: “Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money. We can transmit this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, with some small help, with forgiveness. Let us seek in particular to communicate the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that this presence of God’s liberating joy will shine out in our lives.”

My ancestors in Italy embodied this through the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, keeping in mind what this custom signifies.

Tradition holds that it represents the seven sacraments. Leave it to the Italians to teach the Faith with food! Nourishing our souls with the sacraments allows others to recognize the joy of Christmas within us, just as when the disciples recognized the resurrected Christ in the breaking of the Bread at the supper at Emmaus.

The urgency for Christmas should be to keep the joy of Christ’s coming alive all year. It can be done if we accompany those little acts of charity with a deeper, committed prayer life. A well-nurtured personal prayer life keeps charity growing within us, radiating as an external joy of Christ that others can absorb from us. During the Christmas season we tend to pay more attention to prayer and the sacraments. But once we get back to our regular routine, for some that extra prayer effort gets diminished or forgotten. This challenge can be overcome if one understands that: Non potest quis id quod non habet [one cannot give what one does not have]. Simply put: if one does not have Christ’s joy within, he cannot extend it!

In availing ourselves of the sacraments this season, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and keeping a simple prayer life like reading the Bible, or reciting the rosary, we will keep the joy of Christ alive in us all year. Without any great effort, we can bring the joy of Christ to others. His joy will radiate through all our good deeds and actions. Buon Natale!

 

Ragu d’Astice (Lobster Ragu) • serves 4

Ingredients:
4 – 8oz. lobster tails*
1 lb. fusilli pasta cooked al dente
1 25 oz. jar Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara Cooking Sauce or sauce of your choice
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup white onion, finely minced
1⁄2 cup white wine
2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Prepare lobster tails: crack tail and loosen meat from shell without detaching from tail.

In a 10-12” deep sauté pan, combine extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and onions. Sauté on medium heat until garlic is light golden and onions translucent.

Add lobster meat and tails, white wine, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to pan. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add cooking sauce to pan. Simmer low 3 minutes until tails turn red, meat turns white.

Cover; cook with lid askew for 3 minutes on low until meat is cooked through (make sure to not overcook lobster).

Cook the pasta al dente, drain it, and add in 1 cup of lobster ragu from saute pan to prevent pasta from sticking. Stir to mix well.

Plate pasta, top with lobster ragu, and garnish with chopped parsley.

*Optional: remove lobster shell before serving or leave to add to presentation. For a true Feast of the Seven Fishes, substitute any or all of the following: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, lobster, king crab.

 

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.