Picture her, long-legged, wearing nothing but black fishnet stockings and a tiny curved apron tied around her waist. We see her in three-quarter profile from the rear. She’s bending over the oven, her legs straight and her bottom all round and curvy. She looks back at us, smiling, as she takes something hot out of the oven, whatever it is, it is mouthwatering. With wisps of steam curling in the air, she carries it at breast level, to serve us. This might be the fantasy you imagine if you think of Sophia Loren in her prime, as your muse in the kitchen.
This weekend I tested Sophia’s recipes for ‘polpette’ (meatballs) and a marinara sauce from her cookbook, “In the Kitchen with Love”, published in 1972. Her cookbook is written in a conversational style with very little, if any, specific instructions on how to prepare the recipes. Rather, she’s more like a cooking guide, informing us of foundational ingredients and offering us preparation advice. Her cookbook allows our creativity and taste buds free range. I also appreciate that she uses her native Italian tongue to describe some of the cooking methods, ingredients and to name her recipes.
To set the mood for amorous cooking at Café L’Amour (my test kitchen), I focused my intention on making a delectable dish to share with a beau I’m sweet on. I poured myself a glass of the California red table wine, that would eventually find its way in my sauce, and turned on the mesmerizing sounds of Herbie Hancock, a jazz artist that the beau and I both enjoy. Hancock’s music is fantastic for cooking!
It was amusing to prep the ingredients ‘mise en place’ following Sophia’s wisdom that, “ …everyone who cooks or loves good cooking will have his own formula, so a meatball mixture will always have a personal touch about it and some special ingredient.” I proceeded with the base of ground beef, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and bread crumbs and then added spicy Italian sausage, half and half to soak my bread crumbs, a diced onion, garlic, cracked black pepper, and a little basil and oregano considering that she also advised, if I felt like adding “various herbs so much the better”. The marinara sauce is where the love is! The recipe is based on two well-known food aphrodisiacs, basil and tomatoes. Tomatoes are amorously known as love apples. Based on looks alone, the seductive harlot-red color and sensuous flesh of love apples is enough to arouse a sexy appetite. And the lore of sweet basil to draw love, encouraged me to add a little bit more than the “good amount” Sophia recommends. This symbol of love is called “bacia-nicola” or “kiss me Nicholas” in Italy. Sub in the name of the lover you desire to kiss. I also included a diced onion, garlic, minced anchovies, a few capers, oregano, cracked black pepper, and a pour of that wine.
I savored the essence of the kitchen as things got cooking. The infusion of the hypnotic rhythm from the sound of snare drums, the dizzying effect of the trumpet combined with the thick aromas bubbling from the stovetop and the roasting oven was a sensuous affair.
I sliced a fresh baguette from the Italian bakery, Mazzola, in my Brooklyn neighborhood and prepared a little olive oil dip for sopping. I hope I made Sophia proud.
As the title of her cookbook conveys, cooking is an act of love. And seduction. By opening “In the Kitchen with Love”, I was personally invited to eat with Sophia Loren, an intimate encounter disclosing memories from her childhood, worldwide travels and emotional attachments to food. My mission as a culinary seductress is to give love and pleasure through cooking. Sophia embodies all that is a culinary seductress, a luscious lady cooking to delight and giving of herself because that’s what she wants to do.
Ciao for now.
Honey L’Amour, a culinary seductress
CAFÉ L’AMOUR POLPETTE (MEATBALLS) AND MARINARA SAUCE
(adapted from “In the Kitchen with Love”)
- 2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (love apples)
- 1 teaspoon of tomato paste (love apple paste, passion pantry stable)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cubes of Dorot’s crushed garlic
- 3 anchovies with capers, diced
- 3 cubes of Dorot’s chopped basil (love herb)
- 3 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons of dried basil (love herb)
- ¼ cup of red table wine
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- A little cracked black pepper
Gently sauté your onions, garlic, anchovies, and capers in olive oil; add diced tomatoes (you can smash the tomatoes if you like), salt, pepper, oregano, basil, tomato paste, and wine. Simmer for a good 45 minutes to allow the flavors to marry in bliss.
- 1 pounds of ground beef
- ½ pound of Italian hot sausage
- ¾ cup of breadcrumbs
- ½ cup of half and half
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cubes of Dorot’s crushed garlic
- ¼ cup of Italian parsley, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Cracked pepper to taste
Combine half and half and breadcrumbs in small bowl and set aside while preparing he rest of the meatball mixture. Whisk the egg, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Combine the ground beef and sausage and then add the meat to the egg mixture. Add the onions, garlic and soaked breadcrumbs to the meat and mix thoroughly into the meat with your fingers. Pinch off a piece of meat mixture and roll between your hands to form 1 ½-inch meatballs. Arrange the meatballs, space slightly apart, on a baking sheet. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
You can add the meatballs to the marinara sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. I did not combine the two recipes in this test. I wanted to taste each recipe independently; however, I did plate them together.