Pope Francis’ visit inspires food

By Bill Colvard - [email protected]

Pasta puttanesca is rechristened Pasta Magdelena in honor of Pope Francis’ US tour.

Pasta Magdelena is made from simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

The news was full of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States last week. As the pontiff made his way through the northeast corridor from congress to the UN to the “Rocky” steps in Philadelphia, papal images were everywhere.

With all of this focus on the Pope, it’s hard not to think of Italy even though Pope Francis is not Italian. And thoughts of Italy lead to thoughts of food. Lidia Bastianich, along with fellow chefs Angelo Vivolo, Fortunato Nicotra and William Gallagher, were charged with preparing the Pope’s meals while he was in New York. Bastianich told People magazine that the pontiff watched his portion size but she tried to overfeed him. He had a dessert, an apple tart with ice cream but Bastianich said he didn’t finish it.

Other restaurateurs who didn’t actually cook for the Pope honored his visit with special items, many of which were creative to say the least. A Washington Heights Italian restaurant recognized Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina with a skirt steak served with linguine and marinara. The special came with a glass of Chianti to represent the blood of Christ.

A downtown Manhattan restaurant offered a special dish called “Holy Mole” which was a trinity of moles that came with lamb, chicken with poblana and pork with pipian rojo.

Chef Francis Legge of Queens, New York, honored the papal visit by creating the “Popenut” for his coffee shop. It’s a passion-fruit flavored doughnut hand glazed with white frosting and made with holy water. Legge learned to make holy water on “WikiHow.” It’s a seven step ritual that begins with two prayers. He chose white frosting to symbolize purity. The “Popenut” was a limited offering and is no longer available.

A Bronx bakery offered Pope Francis cookies which are similar to a black and white cookie except it has the Pope’s picture on it. More than 200 sold out in less than an hour.

Grand Ferry Tavern in Brooklyn offered up a Midnight Mass cocktail which combined Dolin sweet vermouth, amaro and gin garnished with a lemon twist. Owner Joel Lee Kulp says he was told by a friend “this tastes exactly like Midnight Mass as a child.”

Pizzeria Don Ernesto in Naples, Italy, heard that Pope Francis enjoys pizza, so a few months ago the restaurant prepared a white and yellow pizza featuring yellow cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and presented it to the Pope while he was riding in the popemobile. The pizza was decorated with the words “Il Papa” spelled out in pizza dough.

The Pope’s Swiss Guards have even published a cookbook. So far it is only available in German but Italian and English versions are on the way. The cookbook includes favorite recipes of the past three popes, including dulce de leche, Pope Francis’ favorite dessert.

It’s really pretty easy to get in on this. An easy to prepare Italian favorite, pasta puttanesca, could easily be rechristened Pasta Magdelena. It’s quick and easy and uses pantry ingredients. Best of all, the sauce can be made in the time it takes the pasta to boil.

Pasta Magdelena

1 pound dried spaghetti

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 handful capers, soaked in water and drained

1 can big black olives, pitted

1 tin anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

3 small dried red chiles, crumbled

1 tbsp. dried oregano

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 cans tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 good handful fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the spaghetti in salted, boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile fry the garlic, capers, olives, anchovies, chiles, and oregano in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until you have a lovely tomato sauce consistency. Remove from the heat, plunge the drained spaghetti into it, toss it over, and cover with the sauce. Rip all the basil over it, correct the seasoning, and drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil.

Il Papa Pizza with Yellow Tomatoes and Basil

This pizza is similar to the “Il Papa” pizza presented to Pope Francis in the Popemobile by the owners of Pizzeria Don Ernesto in Naples, Italy.

1/4 cup Fresh Tomato Sauce

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

1/2 cup Simple Three-Cheese Blend

Garlic, chopped

Fresh basil

Red onion

yellow cherry tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Place pizza stone or inverted baking sheet on rack in top third of oven. Heat oven to 450°F. Transfer stretched dough to parchment. Spread sauce on dough. Add garlic, basil, red onion, and cheese blend. Top with tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil. Transfer to oven: Slide parchment onto stone or baking sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and bottom is crisp.

Apple Torte with Breadcrumb-Hazelnut Crust

This recipe is adapted from an apple tart by Lidia Bastianich and may or may not be the one she served to Pope Francis while he was in New York last week. That one, he had with ice cream.


3 cups breadcrumbs

1 cup hazelnuts – chopped and toasted

10 tbsp. sugar – divided

4 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup whole milk

6 tbsp. unsalted butter


2 pounds Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ wedges

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup hard apple cider OR dry white wine

Into the food processor add 6 tablespoons sugar and the hazelnuts. Pulse until finely ground. Add breadcrumbs and process 5 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in 4 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest and salt. Combine milk and butter in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts. Pour mixture over breadcrumb mixture. Stir to combine {dough will be sticky}. Let dough rest until liquid is absorbed (approximately 15 minutes). Transfer 1 cup dough to a lightly floured surface. Gather into a ball and then wrap in saran wrap and chill at least one hour. Transfer remaining dough to lightly floured surface. Gather into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Spray your 9″ tart pan with cooking spray. Press disk onto bottom and up sides of a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. While dough is chilling, arrange apples in even layer in a large heavy bottom skillet. Sprinkle with sugar then pour apple cider (or wine) over. Cover and cook over medium heat until apples are tender, gently turning as necessary. Approximately 8-10 minutes. Uncover, cook until juices evaporate, gently turning as necessary (turn carefully to keep apple slices intact). Let apples cool completely in skillet. Preheat oven to 375°F. Fill crust with apple mixture. Gently crumble reserved dough ball on top. Bake torte until crust is deep golden and crust begins to pull away from sides of pan, approximately 45 minutes. Allow torte to completely cool in pan prior to serving. Remove sides from tart pan, transfer to serving platter and garnish with fresh whipped cream or powdered sugar.

Dulce de leche

This is a simplified version of Pope Francis’ favorite dessert. It only uses one ingredient and is baked in the oven rather than simmered and constantly stirred.

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Pour the contents of 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Set plate in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up pie plate. Bake milk in middle of oven 45 minutes. Check water level and add additional, if necessary, then continue to bake 45 minutes more, or until milk is thick and brown. Remove pie plate from water bath and cool, uncovered. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

cooks’ notes:

•The leftover dulce de leche will keep for a couple of weeks, refrigerated. It would be great stirred into coffee or cocoa, spread on toast, or warmed and drizzled on ice cream. Try it with peanut butter on a sandwich (surely the top trade at the school lunch table).

Pasta puttanesca is rechristened Pasta Magdelena in honor of Pope Francis’ US tour.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_Cook-Pope-1.jpgPasta puttanesca is rechristened Pasta Magdelena in honor of Pope Francis’ US tour.

Pasta Magdelena is made from simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/web1_Cook-Pope-2.jpgPasta Magdelena is made from simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

By Bill Colvard

[email protected]

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.

comments powered by Disqus