Take the Cannoli, Please

February 27, 2008

Let’s face it The Godfather is a masterpiece, the gold standard. Just like it was hard to write about Casablanca, it’s hard to write about The Godfather. It’s a great must-see American classic. I could never do it justice. Especially since other people do it so much better. Take it, Pauline Kael– “The movie is a popular melodrama with its roots in the gangster films of the 30s, but it expresses a new tragic realism, and it’s altogether extraordinary.” Thanks, Pauline.

Amazingly enough though, for being Marlon Brando’s comeback movie, the one where he wins his second best actor Oscar ( the one where he had a young Native American woman accept for him) it seems like Marlon Brando is hardly in this movie (as compared to Al Pacino) at all. Although when he’s on screen Brando is just mesmerizing. The perfect Don. Another interesting note, The Godfather’s director, that little old winemaker, Francis Ford Coppola, did not win best director this year. Mr. Show-Business-is-life, the late Bob Fosse won for Cabaret.

The Godfather is one of the reasons we’re doing this Oscar winners watching-food theme extravaganza: When we were discussing this whole shebang, Jim brainstormed that we should use the recipe for spaghetti that Clemenza prepares. Now I’m far from The Godfather expert that my husband is because I did not remember this scene. But it’s a great little scene. Twenty four seconds of food prep and male bonding. This is the place where Michael, the outsider of the family is, slowly, brought into the fold. It’s a marvelous scene. It’s a great sauce, too. Coppola put this scene in as insurance. He was afraid the film would fail badly, so at least he would have a demonstration of what makes a good spaghetti sauce. Anyway here’s the recipe:

Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.”

You know The Godfather is packed with great actors: Pacino, Brando, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Caan. My favorite–Richard Castellano, the gangster with the joie de vie, Peter Clemenza. In fact our whole menu was inspired by Clemenza. The spaghetti sauce listed above, and for dessert we had chocolate cannolis. We didn’t drink wine from a pitcher, though. We did drink some nice Coppola wine.

I’m lucky I live within a few miles of a terrific Italian Deli, Frankie’s Deli in Lombard, IL. They sell fresh cannoli shells for 85 cents a piece. Fantastic.

From Michael Chiarello

1 cup unsalted pistachios
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup ricotta
14 cannoli shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.Toast the unsalted pistachios in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Pull from oven, cool and finely chop. Place chopped pistachios in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar until it holds a soft peak. In a large bowl fold together the whipped cream, raisins, 1/3 of the chopped chocolate, 1/3 of the chopped pistachios and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the ricotta. When ready to serve, spoon the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a fat round tip. Fill the cannoli shells from each end.

Blend the remaining chopped chocolate and pistachios on a plate.

To garnish: Dip each end of the cannoli into the chocolate pistachio mixture.

Cannoli can be filled and stored in the refrigerator no more than 1 hour ahead of time.


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