Mike Isabella’s talent for upending the ordinary (hello, pepperoni sauce) lit up two seasons of Top Chef. He spills his secrets — and some of his Nonna’s, too — in his debut cookbook, Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian, a collection of 200 lip-smacking recipes like the one below.
The official release date is September 25, but, as he does in the kitchen, Isabella’s cooking it up his way. He’s hosting a book-signing brunch this Sunday (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at Graffiato.
The “Grand Mother” Tomato Sauce
Makes six cups
¼ c. canola oil
1½ c. thinly sliced yellow onion
½ c. thinly sliced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 c. canned crushed tomatoes
4 c. chopped fresh plum tomatoes (blanch whole to remove skins if using a food processor in step 4)
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1. Heat canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Lower the heat to medium and stir occasionally 12-15 minutes until onion is caramelized and golden brown.
2. Stir in the garlic and saute 3-5 more minutes until garlic is light golden brown. Add the bay leaves, canned tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes; simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
4. Remove sauce from heat and discard the bay leaves. Pass the sauce through a food mill on the smallest disc (or pulse in a food processor until pureed, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer).
5. Return sauce to saucepan and stir in olive oil, salt, oregano, and pepper.
Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian is available for preorder at amazon.com, $23. Book-signing brunch, Graffiato, 707 6th Street Northwest, between G and H Streets (202-289-3600 or graffiatodc.com). For more information, go to mikeisabella.com.
Photo: Greg Powers / Courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books