Goodfellas.. Tomato Sauce... Eat Mafia Style.

One of my Xmas gifts this year was something that the wife noticed me getting excited about in the local book store. The Wiseguy Cookbook, by Henry Hill (the guy Ray Liotta played in Goodfellas).

I love Italian food. I am (to toot my own horn) a hell of a good cook. But I spent over a decade attempting to cook Italian chow and couldn’t do it. It was always too acidic, too sweet, or too “ishkabiddle”. It was never even close to the good Italian restaurants I am used to.

I got this book and immediately tried a recipe. Sunday Gravy (Meat Sauce) page 33. For the next week, all we ate was recipes from this book, and I can’t wait to make the rest of them. I think we all gained 10 pounds last week. Screw Betty Crocker. You want to make some very good Eye-Tie chow, get this book. If you haven’t read the book Wiseguy and want a good read, as well as a good cook book, get this book.

I’ve tried for 15 years to cook good Italian food and couldn’t do it. This book showed me the way. It’s all about skimming the acid. I feel enlightened and stupid at the same time.

By the way, it was Henry’s mom that taught him to slice garlic with a razor, that he shared with Paulie.

Ain’t that book the berries? I made a batch of the Gravy as well, but used mine for a lasagna that got wolfed down in ten minutes, no lie, at a party over the holiday.

It’s got good narrative comment, as well. Great recipes, tested and they perform well. Also very versatile, as you’d expect from somebody who spent a lot of time cooking on the run.

Ah, my favorite food-porn-pusher is at it again. :wink:
I’m awfully tempted to pick up the book now, although I’m not a huge fan of Italian food… but I would like to have a good meat sauce recipe for the once-a-year craving I get for it.

False God, I also used the sauce in his lasagna, along with the sliced meatballs. Best lasagna I have ever had in my life. If you haven’t tried Michael’s Favorite Ziti, you better. Words can’t describe it.

Java, who’s your huggy bear baby? I emailed you a couple of the recipes.

This sounds tempting, even though I usually avoid cookbooks that are tied in to movies or teevee. How does this one compare to the other Cosa Nostra cookbooks, Sopranos cookbooks, etc., that are available now?

I already have at least one pretty good Southern Italian/Sicilian/U.S. Immigrant book: Mangia, Little Italy. D’ya think I need this in addition?

Uke, I’d buy it even if it wasn’t Henry Hill. Don’t think of it as tied into a TV/Movie cookbook, think of it as a regular guy’s guide to tasty Italian food. His recipes are right on, and great for anyone who has kids or needs to make dinner in a hurry (except for the gravy and braised dishes). It’s interesting in that he was kept on the run for so long, yet he always found time to cook and eat his tastes of home, as well as incorporating the local produce.

Also, while there are a lot of great traditional recipes, there are no fancy modern things. True Sicilian food, simple. Also, the book is geared around his “on the run” recipes. How to make wonderful things no matter what part of the country you live in, when you can’t get traditional ingredients, if you don’t have a full kitchen, or when you have next to no money. I never thought it was possible to make risotto in the microwave, much less a very good one. Basically, how to make great food using what or what little you have, rather than most Italian cookbooks that start out using ingredients that you might never have heard of, much less can walk to your local deli and pick up.

We have yet another recipe from the book on the stove right now:) We have a LOT of cookbooks, but this is by far the best one. He’s not just a guy cashing in on his name. He grew up cooking, owned several restaurants that he started, and planned on writing this book even before he was in the WPP.

Turbo Dog, you’re a funny guy…

How 'bout giving us the recipe for Meat Sauce? One recipe is certainly permitted fair use, especially if it’s in the context of a review.

I personally make killer meat sauce and I’d like to see how it compares before buying the cookbook.


Yes, da meatsauce, my good man. Give us da meatsauce.ok how 'bout a hint?

I second that Fenris request for the recipe for the Sunday Gravy. I want to present my girlfriend and her family “with a sauce-a dey can’t refuse.”

Thirding Sunday Gravy

A big honkin lasagna in ten minutes attest to something I need to try.

Okay, I guess one recipe is OK under the auspices of a cookbook review:

Basic Tomato Sauce from The Wiseguy Cookbook (copyright Martin Lewis and Priscilla Davis 2002)

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced or thinly slices (about 2 tablesppons)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped brown or white onions or shallots (optional)
2 28 oz cans peeled plum tomatoes with basil, drained, reserving juice
12 large basil leaves, torn in large pieces, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, or 2 tsp to 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp each each salt and pepper

In a large skillet or medium-large wide pot, cook garlic briefly in olive oil over medium-low heat. Do not brown, or it will get bitter. If using optional onions, cook them 3-5 minutes in olive oil, then add garlic and cook one minute. Add the juice from the canned tomatoes to stop the garlic cooking. Crush tomatoes with your hands or chop well on a cutting board and add to the pan. Add basil, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stri thoroughtly once, then reduce heat to a low simmer. As the acid from the tomatoes flows to the top (the orange foam/oil) skim it off every 10-15 minutes, Sauce is ready in half an hour, but cook up to 1 hour if you want it thicker. Check for seasoning and add the rest of the salt and pepper, if desired.

For the Sunday Gravy, brown a half-pound of good Italian sausage in olive oil, make a batch of meatballs using half beef/half pork, brown the meatballs. Cut 'em in half, cut up the sausage, and add to six cups of the prepared sauce. Adjust seasoning, cook until the meatballs are done through (about 10-15 minutes). Serve over hot cooked pasta of your choice.

(pant, pant) Hey, guys, I’m just back from the bookshop!

…ohhhh, goddammit, there’s the meat sauce recipe. There goes nineteen bucks down the crapper.

So, do you skim off the acid with a spoon?

No, no, my friend, the gravy is just the tip of the iceberg. He’s got pastas, salads, vegetable dishes, et cetera et cetera.

Check out the index in the back of the book–dishes arranged by the time it takes to do them! Genius!

And make Michael’s Ziti. Oh, and the Wedding Soup. And the Lobster fra Diavolo.

You will NOT be disappointed.

(Although I would have sold you my copy when I ship out in March at a price you’d have to see to believe)

And yes, skim off the acid in the sauce with a spoon.

So I made a batch of the Gravy again today for my wife (who’d been away when I made it previously) and after I brought a spoonful of it out to her to taste, she grabbed my ears, pulled me down, and gave me a big ol’ kiss.

It really is that good. I made some additions this time, and I think it’s a little better. No onions this time, more parsley, a tablespoon of oregano about ten minutes before the end of simmering, and I added two anchovy filets to the garlic as it was sauteing. I’ve done this to marinara sauces before, and it adds a certain something.

Nice hot Italian sausages, and I made a big batch of meatballs with half pork and half beef like it says in the book. Pasta water’s on now and it should be even better tomorrow night.

I was just cooking up a batch of Henry’s Sunday Gravy, and I thought I’d bring this thread up from the dead in celebration. The sauce is like a Tom Petty song–so simple and so obvious you can’t believe you didn’t think of it yourself, but it hits the spot just right.

Overall, this is one of the best Italian-American home cooking cookbooks one could ever ask for–one great recipe after another, all within the reach of anyone who gives a damn about what he’s doing.

I also went back and watched Goodfellas again after reading the book, and I hadn’t noticed before just how many scenes in the movie focus on food. I knew the prison scene and of course that brilliant sequence at the end when he’s cooking dinner, unloading the guns, and watching the helicopters, but it’s everywhere.

The mob stories are great, too. Since Lexington, KY is home for me, I was surprised that they almost put him there until he remembered that the federal prison was there and a lot of wiseguys were doing time there, so a lot of their wives had moved to town. (I had dinner with poet John Giorno a few years ago, and apparently the prison was what a lot of the beat poets knew Lexington for as well–Burroughs has a poem about it.) He didn’t have much that was kind to say about Kentucky’s food, and I can’t really argue…shame he couldn’t get out west for some barbecued mutton or good country ham, though.

Dr. J

Great . . . another cookbook I need to buy, based on the reviews here. Can anyone tell me if the majority of recipes can be made successfully by a not very good cook? Is the secret to use good, simple ingredients that can be found in a reasonably large supermarket?