Chef Jonathan Benno reveals his signature recipes

Jonathan Benno was raised in Connecticut farm country, where family dinners included his grandmother’s eggplant parmesan made with eggplant right out of the garden. After training at The Culinary Institute of America, he learned from the best in the business, including Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, and Thomas Keller.

Keller had him open his New York flagship Per Se. Later, he ran the kitchen at the acclaimed Lincoln Ristorante. Now he’s taken over at New York’s The Evelyn Hotel, opening Leonelli Taberna, Leonelli Focacceria, and his namesake Benno.

Here are some of Jonathan Benno’s signature recipes: 

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Francesco Sapienza

Roasted leg of lamb with roasted garlic puree

Ingredients

1 large lamb leg roast with a cap of fat, 4 to 6 pounds; bone-in leg (these can be as large as 8 pounds); de-bone to the shank, keep shank bone in.

Leaves from 6 fresh rosemary sprigs (2 heaping tablespoons leaves), plus extra sprigs and branches for garnish

1/2 cup roasted garlic puree

Kosher salt & black pepper to taste

For the roasted garlic puree:

1 garlic head, cut in half

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. For roasted garlic puree: Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. While the oven is heating up, cut the garlic head in half and lay on a sheet of tin foil, season with salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil over the halved garlic. Once up to temperature, wrap the foil around the garlic and place in the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and tender to the touch. Once the garlic has cooled, gently squeeze out all the garlic cloves. Once they are squeezed out, place them in a blender and blend until smooth.   
  2. Heat oven to 425° F. Mix the rosemary leaves and the roasted garlic puree into a chunky paste. Using your fingers, massage the chunky paste into the meat.
  3. Season liberally with salt and black pepper. Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up.
  4. Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F and roast until internal temperature reaches 130° to 135° F (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60 to 90 minutes. Baste every 20 minutes or so with the drippings in the pan. If possible, for the last 15 minutes of cooking, use convection or a broiler to crisp the fat on the roast.  
  5. Remove pan from the oven, remove rack from the pan, and let the roast rest on the rack for at least 60 minutes in a warm place, tented with foil. The internal temperature will rise to about 140° to 145° F. 
  6. Cut the lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on a heated platter, decorated with rosemary sprigs.  
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Ravioli with spring vegetables, ricotta, and brown butter

Ingredients

3.5 cups english peas, shucked

3 tbsp shallots, sliced

1/4 cup garlic, sliced

5 tbsp mint

3 tbsp ricotta

8 tbsp parmesan, grated

2.5 tbsp mascarpone

4 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta dough

4.5 cups 00 pasta fresca flour

1.5 eggs

3/4 tbsp olive oil

3/4 tbsp milk

3/4 tbsp egg yolk, for sealing the ravioli

For the ravioli garnish

4 TBSP peas

1/8 cup brunoised (small dice) baby turnip

1 tbsp brunoised radish

2/3 tbsp brunoised parsnip

½ tbsp pea greens

1 tbsp english pea filling per ravioli

1.5 tsp browned butter

Directions

  1. For the english pea filling: Bring a medium size pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook until tender (2-3 min). Drain and set aside. In a heavy bottomed pan, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and begin to sweat the garlic and shallots. Do not brown.
  2. Once the garlic and shallot are tender, add the peas and whole mint leaves (on the stems is fine, they will be removed later). Glaze the peas in the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer to a bowl. Place the bowl filled with peas on top of a larger bowl that is filled with ice and some water. This will help cool them down fast. Once cooled to 40° F, pick out the mint leaves and place all the peas into a robot coupe (or any food processor) and blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer into a bowl and add the mascarpone, parmesan and ricotta. Mix well and transfer into a pastry bag and refrigerate. 
  5. For the ravioli: Mound the flour on a work surface and form a well. Beat the olive oil, 1.5 eggs, and milk in a bowl. Pour half the egg mixture into the well. Begin mixing the egg with the flour with one hand; use your other hand to keep the flour mound steady. Add the remaining egg mixture and knead to form a dough.
  6. Knead the dough until smooth, 8 to 10 minutes; add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Form the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Roll out the pasta dough into thin sheets no thicker than a nickel. To assemble the ravioli, brush the egg wash over a sheet of pasta. Drop the pea filling mixture on the dough, 1 tbsp each, about one inch apart. Cover the filling with the top sheet of pasta, pressing out the air from around each portion of filling. Press firmly around the filling to seal. Cut into individual ravioli with a knife or pizza cutter. Seal the edges.
  8. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in the ravioli, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the ravioli float to the top and the filling is hot, 4 to 8 minutes. 
  9. While the pasta is cooking, begin re-heating the vegetable garnish. Add butter to the pan and melt until golden brown, then add the blanched vegetables and pea leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Add the drained ravioli to the garnish. Give the pan a couple of swirls and then plate. 
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Francesco Sapienza

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

1/2 cup marinara sauce

1 medium eggplant, sliced thin

1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup shredded mozzarella

2 cups canola oil, for frying

1/2 cup AP flour, for dredging the eggplant

For the marinara sauce 

28 oz canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped and keep the tomato juice

1 cup spanish onion, small dice

1/8 cup basil

2 tbsp pressed garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 piece of bay leaf

1/3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Salt & ground pepper to taste 

Directions

  1. In a heavy-bottom pot or pan, cook onion and garlic together until soft with the EVOO. Do not brown. Add tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook on low flame for 2 hours stirring constantly. Turn off heat, season with salt and pepper. Then add red wine vinegar and basil and cool.  
  2. For the fried eggplant: In a deep sauté pan heat up the 2 cups of oil to 350° F. While the oil is heating up, thinly slice the eggplant. Lay out the sliced eggplant on a sheet tray and lightly sprinkle salt all over the sliced eggplant. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. You will see little droplets of water on the eggplant, that is when you will know that all the bitterness has been extracted. Dab some paper towels on the eggplant to remove the bitter water. 
  3. Dip the eggplant slices into the AP flour, make sure the slice is coated. Once it is coated, give it a tap to release the excess flour. Fry in the oil until golden brown on each side. Once golden brown, pull it out and place on paper towels. Repeat this process until all the eggplant is complete (you will need to fry the slices in batched; be sure not to overcrowd the pan).
  4. To assemble: Pre-heat the oven to 375° F. In a small round baking dish start layering the eggplant with the marinara and cheese. Start with marinara on the bottom, then eggplant, then both the cheeses and then season with salt and pepper. Repeat this process until you get to the top of the baking dish. The last ingredient on top should be mozzarella.
  5. Place the eggplant parm in the oven and cook for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients

2 cups shiitake mushrooms

2 cups oyster mushrooms

2 cups crimini mushrooms

2 cups royal trumpets

2 cups maitake mushrooms

1 tbsp roasted garlic puree

2 tbsp canola oil

salt & pepper to taste

For the roasted garlic puree

1 garlic head, cut in half

1 tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. While the oven is heating up, cut the garlic head in half and lay on a sheet of tin foil, season with salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil over the halved garlic. Once up to temperature, wrap the foil around the garlic and place in the oven. Cook for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and tender to the touch. Once the garlic has cooled, gently squeeze out all the garlic cloves. Once they are squeezed out place them in a blender and blend until smooth. 
  2. For the mushrooms: Pre-heat a heavy bottomed sauté pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, add 1 tbsp of canola oil to the pan. Add 1 kind of mushrooms to the pan. Give them a nice toss and then season with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, then take out of the pan and drain on a rack. Continue this process for each type of mushroom, adding additional oil as needed to keep from burning.
  3. Then, add all the sautéed mushrooms back to the pan and re-heat. Once they are hot, add the roasted garlic puree and give the mushrooms another toss to distribute the garlic evenly. Serve!
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Aranciata Rossa Cocktail

Ingredients

3 oz. Prosecco Extra Dry (or Brut)  

1 1/2 oz. of Capelletti Aperitivo Speciale (drier than Aperol)

1/2 oz. Amara Rossa, an amaro made primarily from bitter oranges

Top with San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa soda

Directions

Add all ingredients to an over-sized wine glass with ice and stir. Add a twist of Bitter Orange peel to complete each one.

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