March 1, 2009

Rao's at home!

Recently, Brad and I had the pleasure of having dinner at Rao's of New York, a virtually impossible reservation to come by. Rao's, for those unfamiliar with the iconic East Harlem establishment, has been around for over a hundred years, serving out traditional Italian fare. The restaurant is tiny to say the least, with only 10 tables, all of which sit one party a night. When you get a reservation at Rao's it doesn't come with a particular time. You show up when you like, and leave when you like. The staff is incredibly friendly, treating every one that walks through the door with the same kind of hospitality one would extend in their own home. Reservations are made literally months in advance and are extended only to a very few lucky individuals.

One of our good friends is one of those lucky people, and invited Brad and myself, along with a few other friends to join him at his treasured table. Now, Brad has been to Rao's a few times before thanks to some work connections, so I have been left at home to sulk and pout. The very first time he went, he brought me back the Rao's cookbook as a sort of consolation prize and his ticket back into the house. It is filled with a number of delicious looking pastas, meats and vegetables, and I had marked a number to cook before going there myself. After eating there though, that list has grown exponentially. We tried so many wonderful dishes, I simply can't wait to see if they will translate onto our own table as well.

This sausage, cabbage and penne dish was the first on my list. It was delicious at the restaurant, and came out exactly how we remembered it. It is simple in concept, but the homemade marinara sauce, which requires hand crushing and treatment of tomatoes and a watchful eye as the sauce bubbles and thickens away, paired with the savory sausage and unique flavor of the cabbage makes for a very memorable dish. It's like taking your average pasta and completely amping it up. And I can't say enough about the sauce. Let's just say I now understand why so many people are completely appalled by the idea of canned versions.

Not everyone can go to Rao's, but it's so nice to know that their signature dishes are just a few ingredients and a little bit of time away from being on your own table.

I also want to extend a huge "Thank-you!" to Lori of Lori's Story and Southern Delights, for this award. So sweet of you!

This award is for very creative blogs, so I would like to pass it along to Janna of Honeyed Hashette. I've just recently found Janna's site and she is always full of creative and completely delicious looking goodies. Not to mention that she is a fellow Aussie puppy lover. Please go check out her site!

Rao's Marinara Sauce
Courtesy of Rao's Cookbook

2 28-ounce cans imported Italian plum tomatoes with juice (I used Rao's brand)
1/4 olive oil
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
pinch dried oregano
  • Using your hands, crush the canned tomatoes removing any hard core or skin, and set aside along with juice.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and saute onions for 3 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, juice and salt to taste.
  • Raise heat and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately lower heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes (sauce will thicken the longer it cooks).
  • Stir in basil, oregano and pepper to taste, cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat and serve.
Penne with Cabbage, Sausage and Marinara

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Italian sausage meat, cut into bite sized pieces or taken out of casings
1 pound cooked savoy cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper
marinara sauce
1 pound penne
Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Place cabbage in a large saucepan and cover by 2-inches with cold water.
  • Bring water to a boil, then lower and simmer cabbage for 5 minutes.
  • Place cabbage under cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Drain cabbage well on paper towels and set aside.
  • In a large saute pan, heat oil and garlic over medium heat.
  • Add sausage and cook through.
  • Add cabbage and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile cook penne until al dente.
  • Add pasta and sauce to sausage mixture and cook for a few minutes, until flavors are combined.
  • Remove from heat and serve. Top with cheese if desired.


A Feast for the Eyes said...

So nice to see the two of you together-- such a beautiful couple! How I envy the variety of small and exclusive restaurants of New York. I don't have that in Monterey, CA.
Love the recipes!
Congrats on your blog award. You deserve it.


Anonymous said...

A restaurant review and a recipe in one post! Excellent. The cabbage and pasta combo sounds very interesting, definitely something to try.

Elra said...

You are lucky girl, I knew this restaurant, never been there though. Wait, is that Brad in the photo with you?
Anyway, recipe sounds really great. Thanks for sharing it.

Sara said...

Looks delicious, I have heard great things about Raos!

noble pig said...

How cool! I love places like that and have been to a few...The French Laundry being my FAVORITE of course. Glad you got to take part!

sugarlens said...

What a great picture of you and your husband! And Raos sounds like a terrific place for intimate dining. I love small restaurants.

Dani Spies said...

Love the sound of the cabbage/sausage penne! I grew up in an Italian kitchen and the Rao's cookbook amongst the cook book collection. I have never tried their marinara... yet another must try for the list:).
How in the world did you get reservations?!

Maria said...

What a fun place to dine. Thanks for sharing a recipe too!!

kickpleat said...

wow, what a great sounding restaurant. the recipes look delicious!

Stacey Snacks said...

You look so pretty in that photo!
Never been to Rao's. I like their jarred tomato sauce, though!

Donna-FFW said...

MY Goodness this looks awesome. I am so trying the sauce and the dish. I also love Carmines in NYC and just got their book out of the library. You are so pretty:) Anyway, I left you an award, please come pick it up!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

This looks fabulous. I've seen Rao's canned tomatoes in the market but I wasn't familiar with them. Thanks for all of the great information.

Janna said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you!
I just added you to my Fellow Foodies list on my blog. :) I am still waiting to see pictures of the mini fluffy puppy.

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

You Lucky Ducky! Can wait to the see the other recipes you make from your Rao's cookbook.

Culinarywannabe said...

Hi Debby - Thank you! We are so lucky to have so many great restaurants - guess you will just have to come visit! :)

Hi 5 Star Foodie - The cabbage idea was new to me, but we really really like it.

Hi Elra - That is Brad - he actually hates this photo, but oh well. :)

Hi Sara - It really did live up to all the hype.

Hi Noble Pig - oh I would love to go to French Laundry! That is too cool!!

Hi Sugarlens - It's great because even though it's small, the tables aren't on top of one another.

Hi Dani - One of our good friends has been going there forever and gets around 4 tables a year. I also might have begged a little. :)

Hi Maria - Sure thing!

Hi Kickpleat - Thanks!

Hi Stacey - Thanks so much! I've never had the jarred sauce, but they have so many products in the market now it's crazy.

Hi Donna-FFW - Oh my, Carmine's is a major guilty pleasure for us. I always leave there totally stuffed. Thanks so much for the award!!!!

Hi Sam - You're so welcome!

Hi Janna - I will have to send you some pics!

Hi Foodie - Now the hard part is picking what to make next!

Passionate About Baking said...

Great post & beautiful review. Love the marinara. I'd love to make that soon!

~Carole said...

I just found your blog and had to comment on the Rao's post. I have the cookbook & make the marinara sauce frequently. I'd love to go there someday. I hope it was a great experience for you.

Rock Princess said...

I discovered Rao's marinara 7 years ago when my husband picked it up at a gourmet grocery store near our house not realizing the price. When I saw on the receipt what he had paid for "spaghetti sauce" I was apalled ($9 for a jar of sauce!)but once I tried it I was hooked! Everything else tasted like garbage after having Raos. The sauce is light and simple but so very tasty. I didn't want to choose between my budget and my palate so I started researching on the internet. I found the recipe on some obscure site and ran to the store to get what I needed. Something worth noting: NOT ALL IMPORTED CANNED TOMATOES ARE ALIKE!!!!! I tried a few different brands and found out the sauce does NOT taste the same. You have to use San Marzano tomatoes for it to taste JUST LIKE Raos. Cento, Rosa's, and Rao's (duh!) work best. Beware of a brand called San Marzano's as they are NOT San Marzano tomatoes. Anyway, once you got the right ingredients it is the BEST sauce in the world (imo)!!!! My family will not eat anything else.