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Cooks' Exchange: New East Side hangout Bar Corallini inspires Italian recipes

Cooks' Exchange: New East Side hangout Bar Corallini inspires Italian recipes

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The month of December will continue to sparkle for me with fond memories, family togetherness, holiday gift-giving, Christmas recipes and celebrating today at Bar Corallini, one of my favorite new places to dine in Madison.

Being an old East Sider, I refer to their 2004 Atwood Avenue address as Schenk’s Corners where Italian-born chef and owner Giovanni Novella arrived in Madison from San Diego 2½ years ago to settle in his wife’s hometown while dedicated to offering countless and exceptional recipes to celebrate every day of every year.

Executive chef Novella grew up in Torre del Grecco, a fishing port between Naples and Sorrento. Possessing food culture passion, Novella entered a culinary school in Sorrento at the age of 14 and later was accepted into prestigious programs to sharpen his skills along the coast of southern Italy.

Those skills continued to expand throughout Italy, Germany, Greece and France before experiencing a luxury cruise ship traveling around South America. Following his culinary journey, three years were spent working in Italy in fine dining establishments before moving to San Diego in 2011 while continuing to possess a powerful attitude regarding restaurant people being creative, challenged and open to new ideas.

The food Novella prepares daily is authentic with 70% of the ingredients being from Italy to create Italian cuisine just as you would experience in Italy. While making his own mozzarella, pasta and gnocchi, everything is exceptional beginning with eggplant fritters to pizza, pasta, insalata, including seared Atlantic salmon, chicken piccata and other mouth-watering favorites plus a vegan menu and cannolo like those served in Sicily.

Arancini with Meat Ragu

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup minced yellow onion

3 cups arborio rice

¾ cup dry white wine

1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)

4 egg yolks

12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Warm chicken or vegetable stock in medium saucepan. Keep warm (on a burner) and set aside. In a large saucepan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Add rice to oil and onion, stirring over medium heat until rice starts to brown. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. Slowly add warm broth to rice while stirring. Add all broth. Stir and cook rice for 15-20 minutes, until rice is firm, but cooked. Remove from heat and add cheeses, egg yolks and peas. Pour onto a sheet pan to cool.

Meat ragu

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ stalk celery, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 pound ground beef

1 pound Italian sausage

½ cup dry red wine

4 cups San Marzano tomatoes

½ cup tomato paste

Kosher salt

1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Meat sauce

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook and let vegetables sweat for 6-8 minutes. Add ground beef and sausage and cook until brown. Deglaze pan with wine. Add San Marzano tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until combined. Season with salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

To assemble: Form the cooked rice into the size of a tennis ball. Flatten ball into a disc (like a pancake). Add about 2-3 tablespoons of meat sauce. Pack meat sauce nice and tight into the rice ball. Let rest for 20 minutes in the fridge (on a sheet pan).


2 cups flour

4 large eggs

4 cups breadcrumbs

In a large pan, add oil and heat to 360 F. Set up breading station of flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, using in that order. While oil is heating, roll chilled arancini in the breading station. Fry arancini 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest on a paper towel.

Finocchio Alla Parmigiana

Being blessed with having a Sicilian immigrant father, I was introduced to a few “foreign” flavors now then while growing up, one being that of fennel. Today, as a great-grandma known by my grandchildren as “Nonna” owning countless Italian cookbooks, here is a favorite from an exceptional Sicilian cook based in Chicago for many years as a food columnist.

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs

¹⁄³ cup panko breadcrumbs

¹⁄³ cup grated Parmigiano

¹⁄³ cup good olive oil

Salt and pepper


If stalks are still attached to the fennel bulbs, cut them off and retain some of the feathery fronds as garnish. Cut the bulbs in half from top to bottom and cut away at the tough root and base. Separate the layers, cut them into ¹⁄³-inch strips, and arrange in a buttered or oiled 1 ½ quart baking dish. Combine the crumbs and cheese and distribute them over the fennel. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the olive oil as evenly as possible over the top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 40-45 minutes.

If the crumbs are not golden, turn on the broiler for the last 5 minutes. Garnish with some chopped fennel fronds for flavor and color.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Discovered in a magazine, this recipe belonged to a large Italian family claiming it can be made with wine or beer.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1½ pounds Italian sausage

2 tablespoons butter

1 large red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch-thick strips

1 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch thick strips

1 yellow onion, halved and sliced crosswise (2 cups)

½ red onion, sliced (¾ cup)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup white wine (or beer)

Heat oil in a large skillet over moderate heat, then brown sausages, turning, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and slice. Melt butter in skillet. Add peppers, onions, garlic, basil and oregano. Stir in wine. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes until peppers and onions are tender. Return sliced sausages to skillet with vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.

Asiago Smashed Potatoes

A reader whose red skin potatoes in the refrigerator needed “help” shared this recipe described as being so delicious she’d “never want anything else!”

4 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled, quartered

1½ teaspoon salt, divided

10 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded (See note)

½ cup butter, cut up

½ cup milk

½ cup sour cream

½ cup sliced green onions

½ cup crumbled cooked bacon

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Place potatoes in large saucepan or Dutch oven; add enough water to cover. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; boil 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with knife. Drain well. Return potatoes to pan. Add all remaining ingredients, including remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Mash potatoes with potato masher.

Note: Asiago cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a firm texture and nutty flavor. It is similar to Parmesan cheese and can be grated or shredded

Serves: 14 (about ¾ servings)

Tripolino-Viviani Roasted Holiday Nuts

Here is a simple treat Rick Viviani and I created one day while roasting s and pecans with exciting flavors of sweet Sicily.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon anise extract

¼ teaspoon anise flavored sugar

1 teaspoon anise seed

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2½ cups walnut and pecan halves

Melt butter. Add remaining ingredients except nuts and mix well. Place walnut and pecan halves in a bowl. Pour over butter mixture and toss to coat. Place in 9x13-inch baking pan and roast/bake at 325 F for 9 minutes. Stir and return to oven for an additional 9 minutes. Pour out on aluminum foil, separate with a spoon and allow to cool to break up and store in airtight bag or jar, or refrigerate in a baggie.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at


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