Feasts of the North End and Suggestions for this Penne Dish

You’ve just got to love the Itialians in Boston’s North End – they sure know how to throw a hellava party!  Not to slight Southie with their St. Paddy’s Day parade but really, that’s just one day whereas the North End starts warming up in June with weekly processions of saints  The saint of the week gets hauled through the narrow streets, down to the harbor for a blessing (now that we’ve gotten that tea out of the harbor, it’s fairly clean), and people run out to pin money on the saint.

north end feast

Once August rolls around though, things get serious, its time to close down streets, line up the food vendors, bring on the music, and party!

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The streets swarm with people grazing from one food stand to another, tourists wear weird plastic lobster claws on their heads (no picture of that since I figure they should be embarrassed enough), and plenty of nonas walk around with their string bags inspecting the produce (no picture of them either since I hate getting beat up by a 5′ lady with a string bag of salami).

We went to two of the major feasts – The Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna

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which was a great time but my favorite feast is the Feast of St. Anthony.


Madonna’s terrific but St. Anthony’s the go-to guy for lost things so I always like to pin a few bucks on him since I’m always losing stuff.  My husband’s quite the joker though – as I was climbing off the platform I clearly heard him say “Well at least it didn’t burst into flames – that’s a miracle right there”.    Ok, so I’m not particularly religious but I’m okay with Anthony.  Anyway, after covering my bases with St. Anthony we did some serious grazing at the stands – slurped up some cherrystones and raw oysters, stuffed clams, maybe a lobster roll – we needed a little break and headed to a great rooftop bar to replenish our fluids and start on some appetizers.

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I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally get a taste of burrata in a caprese salad.  I’ve been craving this since reading John’s (Bartolini Kitchens) pasta recipe using burrata cheese.  It was every bit as delicious as John promised.

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After appetizers, you obviously need dinner.  If you haven’t been to the North End then let me explain that you could put a blindfold on, walk in any direction and stumble into a great Italian restaurant.  Our choice was Artu’s.

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And this is where I need your help…my dinner was fantastic but Niki’s dinner was super fantastic and since she was a little ‘protective’ of her meal, I didn’t get much and I’m hoping to recreate it.  I’ve got the ingredients and was going to take a stab at making this into a recipe post but I’m interested in for your input on the sequence.  I was going to give it a try but figured… hey I’ve got the best food minds around the world – why not ask for some advice, especially on the sauce.

These are the ingredients:  black mission figs, sausage, mascarpone cheese on penne.

Our waitress was kind enough to ask the chef how the sauce was made and he said it was just butter, salt and pepper. I would love to hear your suggestions for the sequence of cooking up the ingredients.  I’m thinking the sausage and figs can get cooked up together – it’s the mascarpone cheese that I wonder when to add in.  I’d love to hear from you before I go messing up a really fabulous dish.

Alas, all good things must come to an end so after dinner we asked St. Anthony to help us find our car and strolling through the streets filled with confetti, I thought to myself….”I’m sure glad I don’t have to clean up after this party!”

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25 thoughts on “Feasts of the North End and Suggestions for this Penne Dish

  1. Looks like a wonderful day. As for your mission; with those ingredients I can’t see messing up. Sounds fantastic. I am actually going to give it a shot…create something amazing with what you mentioned was in the dish. Good luck to you and if you make something post it! Would love to know what you came up with! 😀


    • Let’s both give it a try. I’m leaning toward adding in the mascarpone just at the end of cooking the sausage because I’m wondering if the fat from the sausage might make the cheese separate. It was sooo good though – a light but sweet sauce.


  2. Good morning Diane! I need to start praying to St. Anthony more often. I have lost more of Buddy’s puppies toys somewhere in the apartment. They have just vanished. Maybe he ate them? Nikki’s dinner sounds delicious. I am thinking that the marscapone goes in at the very end to make the sauce rich and creamy along with the butter. Have a super weekend. Take Care, BAM


    • For a minute there I thought you’d lost Buddy! I checked with Anthony for you & he said there’s a bunch of them under the couch and you should look under the beds too although it’s possible the little guy might have been hungry.
      I think you’re on target with the mascarpone going in at the end otherwise I think it might curdle.


  3. That penne dish — and that event! — both sound so incredible! Naturally I can think of ways to make figs, mascarpone and butter into a dessert, but I’m stumped about the pasta dish. One thing I know is that browning the butter is a heavenly step for both sweet and savory dishes alike…


  4. Ooo what a fun time. Now had I known, I could have asked you to add a few extra bucks to St. Anthony for me. 😉
    Have a beautiful weekend Diane. I am on my way to the airport to meet up with my hubby in Johannesburg and to spend a few days with family. We drive home together next Thursday.
    🙂 Mandy xo


    • We did have such a fun time. The North End’s a great place to stroll around at any time but when they have the feasts it’s really wild.
      My husband gave Anthony some money too & I only need to find 2 rings so I think we’ve got a credit going with him – what do ya need?
      Have a great time with the family!


  5. How I would love to be in Boston for one of the festivals. What fun! I’ve not cooked a pasta with figs before, Diane, but you’ve got me thinking. I hate to suggest something unless I’ve tried it first. I don’t want to send you down a wrong path. What I would like to do is to simmer the figs in broth, sauté the sausage in butter, combine both before adding the mascarpone at the end. I’m not at all sure about this. I have to consult with Zia. 🙂
    Thanks, too, for the shout-out. That was kind of you and I’m so glad you finally found and tasted burrata. It really is something special, isn’t it?


    • John you would love the North End, especially during the feasts. I really did enjoy that burrata & glad that I’d heard about it from you otherwise I might not have tried it.
      I would love to hear what Zia has to say about this dish although I think cooking up the sausage separately Is a good idea as is adding the mascarpone at the end – otherwise I think the cheese might separate. Let me know what Zia has to say.


    • I believe the figs were dried figs – they were softened but had a little chewiness to them which makes me think they were cooked w/maybe the sausage? I’ve never cooked with figs before, dried or fresh so any tips would be great!


  6. Late to this post – we have a North End here but it couldn’t be further from yours – its all 1960’s shopping precinct! I would bake the ingredients and then smother everything with cheese and grill to finish it off.


  7. Pingback: Fresh Figs and Mascarpone: A Cardamom Custard Pie | butter, sugar, flowers

    • August is such an awesome month to be in the North End – well unless you happen to live there. These feasts are so much fun but you really have to pace yourself on the eating.
      Now if I should happen to lose something & the communications between St. Anthony & you get confused, just do the best you can with helping me find whatever I’m looking for. I send out a lot of requests to Anthony so it’s possible some get put in the wrong in-box.


  8. I’ve had fun catching up on all your posts. Artu’s is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the North End. The pasta dish sounds terrific and I’m sure your version turned out great. If I was using mascarpone in this dish, I would stir it into the pasta when finishing the dish.


    • I agree that Artu’s is one of the best and what I found most amazing was that our waitress took orders for 5 of us, which included appetizers, salad dressings, and side dish options and didn’t write a thing down. Of course everyone’s order was perfect too.
      I did end up putting the mascarpone in at the end & it worked out fine although I maybe left it just a tad too long as it started to separate with the grease from the sausage. I should have drained the sausage better and the mascarpone should have been not more than a few minutes before serving.
      Welcome home.


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