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An Interview with Michael Chiarello

Sally and Antonia interview Michael Chiarello chef/owner of Tra Vigne Restaurant in St. Helena, California

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Interview time (23:15)

Pastina Risotto with Roasted Peppers and Broccoli

This dish was inspired by Nick Morfogen. He was my executive sous-chef at Tra Vigne until 1993 when we opened Ajax Mountain Tavern in Aspen, Colorado, and made him chef and partner in the new venture. Pastina is the most comforting of all pastas for Italians to eat because it is the pasta of childhood. Pastina is the diminutive form of the word pasta. And pastina is exactly that -- tiny little grains of pasta that look more like a cooked grain than a pasta. This dish can be varied according to the season by adding whatever vegetables are best: peas and asparagus are two of my favorites.

1 pound dried pastina (#78 Acini di Pepe)
5 tablespoons pepper olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 cups broccoli florets
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 cups hot chicken stock (or canned, low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth)
3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pastina and cook until it is slightly undercooked, about 11 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally during cooking or the pasta will stick to the bottom of the pan. Drain pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and reserve.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic and cook until light brown, moving pan on and off heat as necessary to regulate temperature. Add broccoli and cook until it turns bright green, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme, it should make a crackling sound as it hits the hot pan.

Add stock to broccoli mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced by half. Add peppers and cooked pastina and return mixture to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Swirl in butter, if desired, for a richer-tasting dish. Pour into a heated serving bowl or individual soup plates and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Chef's Notes:

The preparation of this dish resembles that for risotto, thus the name, but it takes less time and can be prepared ahead of time without the loss of quality; follow the recipe through the reduction of the stock. Reserve the pasta and broth seperately then assemble the dish in minutes when ready to serve.

Lampone Pazzo (Crazy Raspberries)

Serve these berries alone with biscotti and a dollop of marscapone cheese or whipped cream. For a pretty presentation, crumble the biscotti into a wine glass and top with the fruit. Lampone pazzo are also delicious on top of vanilla gelato, with panna cotta (literally, "cooked cream," and Italian dessert made of cream thickened and stabilized with gelatin), with toasted polenta pound cake, or the power-puff light cake, sabiosa. You can also use strawberries, blueberries, or just about any berry you like that is in season.

2 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 9-inch or 6 individual sabiosa cakes
Sweetened whipped cream or mascarpone cheese

Combine raspberries, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a nonreactive bowl and let marinate on the counter 5 to 10 minutes. Cut sabiosa into wedges and place one on each of 6 plates. Pile berries on top and garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and mascarpone.

Basil Oil Pesto

2 large bunches flatleaf parsley
1 cup Consorzio Basil Oil
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped or
2 tablespoons Consorzio Roasted Garlic Oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted in the oven
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Remove tough stems from parsley and discard. Blanch parsley very quickly in rapidly boiling, salted water to brighten and stabilize the color. Transfer immediately to an ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain well and squeeze out excess water. Place the blanched parsley in a blender or food processor. Add Consorzio Basil Oil and remaining ingredients except parmesan cheese and blend well. Scrape into a bowl and fold in Parmesan. Sauce may be refrigerated, tightly covered, up to 2 days or freeze.


Pesto has innumerable uses -- as a sauce for pasta, pizza, as a sandwich spread, a sauce for grilled or roasted meats, poultry and fish, and even as a flavorful addition to soups and stews.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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