My midwestern family has a connection to the famous Rao’s Restaurant in New York City. Not a strong enough relationship to ever get a reservation mind you, but it is a good story. My mom was adopted as a baby, and in the course of discovering who her father was, she befriended a lady named Ruby, who was the sister of my mother’s biological mother’s husband (this is tricky). Ruby became “Aunt Ruby”, even though she is not a blood relation, but she was kind and treated my mother like family. Aunt Ruby’s daughter moved to New York City and married one of the owners of Rao’s Restaurant, and Ruby followed her there. My mom would get a big basket full of Rao’s products at Christmas, and I was introduced to their bottled marinara and pasta sauces. Seriously, if you are buying pasta sauces, these are the best!
I have two Rao’s Cookbooks, but for Cookbook Club I chose the original one – Rao’s Cookbook – Over 100 Years of Italian Cooking. There are so many good recipes in this cookbook, but my absolute favorites are the marinara sauce and Anna and Frankie’s Meatballs.
We started off the evening with a Negroni and some Italian Cheeses. The Negroni was very refreshing and a great way to kick off our Italian-themed dinner.
For starters, Dee made the Rao’s Simple Mixed Green Salad. Tasted exactly like a salad from an Italian restaurant should taste like! The fennel was really good and something I normally don’t use.
I made the main dish, and chose Braised Veal Shanks (Ossobuco) and served it with polenta. I used pork shanks as well for those in our group who do not eat veal, and both meats turned out really good, fall off the bone tender.
Nancy made the sides – Peas and Prosciutto and Sautéed Mushrooms. Confession time – I hate peas, always have. But as an “adult” I’m trying to eat vegetables I would normally pass on. These peas were great! So great I will probably even make them myself! Nancy used the La Sueur brand of canned peas, and I think this made a huge difference. And who doesn’t love mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and white wine? So easy but so delicious!
Last but definitely not least was dessert. Laura made a delicious cheesecake – a lot of cheesecakes can be dense and heavy, but this one was very light and delicious. And instead of a graham cracker crust, you use a dusting of bread crumbs. It really lets the cheesecake shine! You can serve it with fruit, but I thought it was excellent on its own.
The food and wine was delicious, and it’s always great getting together to cook. Bon Appetit!