You Will Be Floored by the Flavors in These Spreads
We never knew how much we would covet pistachio spread until we tried the one from Marco Colzani. With a degree in agriculture, followed by a degree in enology, the chocolatier makes insanely great spreads. In addition to pistachio, there’s also almond, as well as a chocolate hazelnut, which puts something like Nutella to shame. And let’s not forget the sublime Lake Como forest berry jam. They’re all exceptional — but the pistachio in particular is the stuff of dreams.
We’re giving away a pack of all four flavors to one member of The Bittman Project — an over $80 value — thanks to our friends at Italian importer-distributor, Gustiamo in the Bronx. All you have to do is subscribe for an annual or monthly membership — if you don’t already have one. Everyone who is a paying member by Wednesday, May 26, will be automatically entered to win.
Almost neon green, the Pistacchi della Sicilia is made from Sicilian pistachios, which, sure, you’ve had pistachios at the store: These are not that. They’re much more intensely flavored, and here they’re jarred with olive oil, cane sugar, and sea salt — that’s it. Open and stir it well, then spread it on toast, or eat it by the spoonful. (We will admit to doing that.)
Colzani comes from a pastry family that runs a pasticceria outside of Milan, Pasticceria Colzani. And although he studied enology (with the great Arianna Occhipinti), he was fixated on making bean-to-bar chocolate. His father said it couldn’t be done — Marco saw that as a challenge and an opportunity.
“I saw similarities between grapes and cacao: terroir, fermentation, tannins, acidity, sugars, oxidation, storage,” he says. Because his father suggested it wasn’t possible, Marco was even more determined to make it. “I’m going to produce it for you for your pralines, for your spreads,” he told his father. And then, he tells us, “I didn’t go back to wine and stayed in the lab and dedicated my time only to research to improve production.”
Colzani got so into the production side he opened his laboratorio in 2016, where he’s since expanded his chocolate offerings as well as his jam and spread selection, all available for the U.S. market through Italian importer-distributor Gustiamo.
“Marco Colzani is a raw material genius,” says Beatrice Ughi, who founded Gustiamo in 1999. “In everything Marco does, he achieves the maximum expression of his ingredients. Whether it is cacao beans from Venezuela or red currants from Lake Como, Marco adjusts his recipes with each batch he makes — to let the flavors soar. The result is outstanding, his spreads and jams blow our minds every time.”
If You Like Italian Food, This Is for You
You know when people talk about the food tasting better in Italy? That’s because it often is. And while it’s tough to replicate the flavors of Sicilian almonds or fresh-picked San Marzano tomatoes, or real deal balsamic — you can find them in the United States — especially if you seek them out through Gustiamo.
Beatrice’s offerings aren’t your everyday products to be picked up in the grocery store. So it’s understandable if you haven’t heard of Gustiamo, since the products they’re importing are super small batch — made with superior Italian ingredients that aren’t grown for mass-production. Yes, it means they’re more expensive. And in this case, it also means they’re exceptionally good. Beatrice and her right hand, Danielle Aquino Roithmayr, have spent decades visiting farms, sampling products, and building relationships with the best purveyors in Italy.
You can read more about Beatrice and Danielle in Paul Greenberg’s homage to Gustiamo in Food and Wine, in which the Italian consul in New York calls Beatrice, “a national treasure.”
We’ve been all-in when it comes to Gustiamo products for a while, and we’re so happy to now be offering to you the Bittman Gusti Box, a selection of ingredients for members to try at 10 percent off. The box is completely vegetarian and provides the makings for two delicious meals — Pasta Arrabbiata and Busiate Pesto alla Trapanese.
We’re also offering a couple of add-ons: bottarga and linguine, to make the fantastic Pasta con la Bottarga; and Balsamic Saba, to make a refreshing cocktail (non-alcoholic or with alcohol; you choose). And after you try the recipes (scroll down to see them), the ingredients will continue to keep your pantry very happy for a long time. To get your discount, use the code GustiLovesBittman at checkout (the code will work for the entire site).
Click on any photo to learn more about each option.
Makes: 4 to 5 servings
Time: 25 to 30 minutes
This dish is incredibly simple, but I was semi-shocked by how much Gustiamo’s special ingredients brightened it up. Use the peppers to taste (I used a lot — they are so good), but “Arrabbiata” means “angry,” which is a reference to the heat, so this should be almost fiery.
3 tablespoons Quinta Luna extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Chili peppers, to taste (I started with a teaspoon)
28 ounces Piennolo tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bag penne Faella
1/2 cup freshly grated Vacche Rosse cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic and chili pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is brown—deeply colored, but not burned. Turn off the heat for a minute. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and plenty of black pepper, and return the heat to medium-high.
2. Adjust the heat so the sauce bubbles enthusiastically and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the mixture begins to thicken and appear more uniform in texture, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and adjust the heat so the tomato sauce stays hot but doesn’t boil.
3. When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out and reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
4. Add the pasta and a splash of the cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and toss to coat, adding a little more oil or cooking water if necessary to create a slightly creamy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning and add more oil if you’d like; then toss with the cheese and the basil if you’re using it. Serve, passing more cheese at the table.
— Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition
Busiate Pesto alla Trapanese
Makes: 4 to 5 servings
Time: 20 minutes
I loved this pesto so much that I almost forgot to add the pasta; I was eating it with a spoon (see: pistachio spread). Pesto alla Trapanese is the Sicilian answer to the Genovese version, a recipe originally brought to Trapani’s port by Ligurian sailors on their way to the East and adapted to use ingredients easier to source on the island: Almonds and tomatoes. Busiate is a traditional pasta that also originated in the Trapani area; the natural nuttiness of the Tumminia flour, the Sicilian ancient grain variety of wheat used to make the pasta, pairs perfectly with this recipe, where the richness of the Sicilian almonds is the absolute protagonist.
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 bag busiate
1 cup Piennolo tomatoes
3/4 cup Sicilian peeled or unpeeled almonds
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili peppers (or to taste)
Freshly grated Vacche Rosse cheese for serving
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the tomatoes, basil, and about 1/2 cup of the almonds in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and chili peppers. Pulse a few times then let the machine run until the almonds reach a medium-fine grind. Add the remaining almonds and pulse a couple of times more to create some bigger pieces.
2. When the water boils, cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
3. Put the pasta and pesto in a serving bowl, add 1/3 cup of the cooking water and toss to coat, stirring and adding more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. Serve immediately, with grated cheese for sprinkling at the table.
— Recipe adapted from Gustiamo
Pasta con la Bottarga
Makes: 4 to 5 servings
Time: 30 minutes
I fell in love with bottarga pasta at Peasant some years ago, when Frank DeCarlo was chef/owner. It’s incredibly creamy, which never fails to surprise me since there’s no dairy in it at all. It’s also not fishy tasting: You could very likely serve it to someone who isn’t a fish fan and they’d still love it.
Salt as needed
1 bag linguine Faella
2 ounces whole mullet bottarga (half the 4-ounce package), plus more for serving
6 tablespoons Quinta Luna extra virgin olive oil, plus more if necessary
Zest from 1 to 2 lemons (to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chili peppers (or to taste)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, optional
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel away the outer layer of the bottarga (as you would sausage casing) and finely grate.
2. Put the bottarga in a serving bowl with the olive oil, capers, lemon juice and zest, garlic, parsley, and chili pepper. Stir until the ingredients form a sauce.
3. Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. When it’s done, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
4. Put the pasta in the serving bowl and toss to combine. To make the sauce creamier, add some of the pasta water, a teaspoon at a time, and a splash more olive oil, and continue stirring. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately, with a sprinkle of freshly grated bottarga on top, if you’d like.
— Recipe adapted from Gustiamo
The Balsamic Cocktail
Makes: 1 serving
Time: 5 minutes
Our friends at Gustiamo call this “The Modena Sunset.” It’s essentially a balsamic spritz, and it’s wonderfully light and fresh, delicious with or without alcohol. (I tried it without, since I was experimenting during a workday; and now I’m very much looking forward to tasting it with the sparkling wine addition!)
1/2 part Balsamic Saba
1/2 part sparkling water
1 part white sparkling wine*
Juice of 1 lemon wedge
Lemon wedges (optional, for garnish)
1. Add the balsamic, mint leaves, lemon juice, ice, wine (if you’re using), and sparkling water to a wine glass. Stir. Garnish with lemon wedges or mint leaves if you’d like.
* If you leave out the wine, up the sparkling water to 1.5 parts per serving.
— Recipe adapted from Gustiamo