Like all Italians, Barry McDonald thinks coffee is oxygen, the tomato is a gift from heaven and wine makes life bearable. But McDonald is not Italian, he just has what he describes as “a very Italian way of going through life”.
McDonald is the fruit and vegetable wholesaler turned providore and restaurateur behind Sydney’s Fratelli Fresh, a hugely successful food empire that pays tribute to Italian cuisine.
I remember visiting Café Sopra not long after it opened in Waterloo in 2004. It had 70 seats in those days and the chefs would run downstairs to see what produce was on the shelves in the store below before they worked out what the lunch specials would be that day.
Dishes loved by Fratelli Fresh customers
Little more than a decade later, Fratelli Fresh caters for around 10,000 to 12,000 covers a week. A brief history of this remarkable business success story is included in Alla Fratelli: How to Eat Italian (published by Murdoch Books), which showcases many of the recipes that are so beloved by Fratelli customers.
Think Truffle Salami with Agrodolce (sweet and sour) Onions and Mozzarella; Prosciutto with Roasted Pear and Bocconcini; Braised Lamb Neck with Orecchiette and Lentils; or my favourite, Pappardelle with Duck Ragu. The recipe reproduced here makes light work of this wonderful dish with its lovely thick flat ribbons of pasta and melt-in-the-mouth ragu.
As for the desserts: Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding, Mangoes in Moscato, Cannoli with Orange Mascarpone, and Strawberries in Prosecco… So many delicious ideas, many of them simple, but therein lies their appeal.
The book succeeds in showing how to cook Italian (fresh and simply); how to shop Italian (seasonally and often); and how to eat Italian (make the most of your time at the table with family). It’s thanks to enterprising folk like McDonald that Australians can do that so easily.
PAPPARDELLE WITH DUCK RAGU
These lovely thick, flat ribbons of fresh egg pasta love a rich duck or wild boar (cinghiale) ragu. If making your own fresh pasta, cut it into 3 cm (1¼ in) wide ribbons with a knife. If you have dried pappardelle, follow the recipe as is.
2 cooked duck marylands (confit or roasted)
100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil
100 g (3½ oz) flat pancetta, cut into batons
½ onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
400 g (14 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped sage leaves
400 g (14 oz) fresh pappardelle
grated parmesan, to serve
Pick the meat and skin off the cooked duck, discarding the bones, and roughly shred.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes or until crisp. Then add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and sea salt to taste, and cook for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the shredded duck and the tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes or until thickened. Add the stock and simmer for a further 10 minutes, then add the sage and check the seasoning.
Cook the pappardelle in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water until al dente, then drain. To serve, toss the pappardelle through the ragu and divide among pasta bowls.
Top with parmesan and freshly ground pepper and serve.
Recipe and images from Alla Fratelli: How to Eat Italian. By Barry McDonald. Published by Murdoch Books and reproduced with permission of Murdoch Books.
This post was originally published in PS News online.