‘Layered simplicity’ is the cornerstone of Via Carota recipes

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A roasted squash dish adorned with currants and pine nuts celebrates the season and rings in fall. Chef Jody Williams says it can be served warm or at room temperature and is even better the next day. Photo by Gentl & Hyers.

Chef Jody Williams recalls meeting Rita Sodi after she was encouraged by friends to visit her West Village restaurant. Charmed by the handwritten, spring menu with its five asparagus dishes. “It was so Italian – the energy, everything, I was in love,” she says. The women eventually opened Via Carota together on Grove Street which, with its vegetable-forward and iconic menu, has become a mainstay of the neighborhood.

“We wanted all the contorni to be the heart of the menu,” Williams says, “because when we would go out, we would gravitate to that little corner of sides that was sort of forgotten.” Their compilation of recipes from the diners’ mecca is “Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant: An Italian Cookbook.”

Zucca in Agrodolce
Squash Marinated with Onions and Currants
Serves four

Any number of squash varieties are well suited for this uniquely Venetian marinade. Butternut is sweet and silky in texture, while red kuri has dense flesh and a subtle chestnut flavor with an edible skin. Arrange in a single layer so the marinade and spices flavor every slice.


  • 1 small butternut or red kuri squash (1 ¼ pounds/570 grams)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup sliced)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml aged sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml water
  • 1/4 cup/about 30 grams currants
  • 1 tablespoon/12 grams sugar
  • 3 tablespoons/30 grams pine nuts, lightly toasted


  1. Preheat the oven to 400oF/200oC. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Rub the squash halves all over with olive oil, salt them well, and set on a baking pan. Roast until the squash halves are blistered in places and soft, 35 to 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds with a spoon.
  2. Place a medium skillet over medium-low heat and lightly coat the bottom with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Add the onions, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Cook until the onions are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, water, currants, sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons/4 grams salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the pine nuts. Slice the squash about 2 inches/5 cm thick and arrange on a platter. 
  3. Spoon the marinade over the squash, distributing onions, currants, and pine nuts over the slices. Let stand for at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Consider making this ahead of time to let the flavors mingle. Serve at room temperature.

Porri al Cenere
Charred Leeks with Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Serves four

The outer layer of these leeks is thoroughly blackened, and the insides are steamed until soft and creamy. If you don’t have a grill or a stovetop grill pan, you can char them over the flames on your stovetop; in that case, hold one leek at a time with tongs and turn it carefully until blackened all over. Be sure to turn off your smoke detector first.

“Cenere” translates to ash in Italian. In this application, chefs Jody Miller and Rita Sodi char leeks, resulting in a blackened outer layer with a creamy, soft center. Photo by Gentl & Hyers.


  • 4 large leeks
  • salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • about 3 tablespoons/45 ml water 3 tablespoons/45 ml Via Carota Vinaigrette (page 340)
  • 2 ounces/55 grams mild sheep’s milk feta


  1. Trim the leeks about an inch above the point at which they turn green and begin to fork. Cut into 5 to 6 inch/13 to 15 cm lengths.
  2. To wash them, peel off the outer layer, and soak the leeks twice in a bowl of warm water; lift out after each soak and repeat with new water. Follow with a cold rinse, checking the ends for any remaining soil; drain and pat dry.
  3. Preheat a grill or a grill pan over medium heat. At the same time, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grill the leeks, turning occasionally, until their surface is completely blackened, about 20 minutes.
  4. Place a large sheet of parchment or newspaper on a sheet pan and arrange the leeks in the center. Season the leeks with salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle with water. Fold the paper over the leeks to create a sealed packet, tucking the ends underneath to keep it from opening. Place the pan in the oven until leeks are very soft when pressed (or test with the tip of a knife), about 30 minutes.
  5. Open the packet to cool slightly. Make a lengthwise slit down the middle of each leek. Press the ends to open each leek a bit. Season the interior lightly with salt and a little vinaigrette and crumble cheese on top.

Via Carota Vinaigrette 
Makes about 1 cup/2 40 ml, enough for 8 salads

It’s a favorite. Enough said.


  • 1 shallot, very finely chopped (¼ cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated (about ½ teaspoon)
  • ¾ teaspoon/2 grams sugar
  • ½ teaspoon/1.5 grams salt
  • 6 stems fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup/60 ml aged sherry vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons/10 ml warm water 
  • ¾ cup/180 ml extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Place the shallots in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain them and transfer to a small bowl with the garlic, sugar, and salt.
  2. Strip the thyme leaves off the stems and finely chop the leaves (for about 1 teaspoon thyme); stir into the bowl. Stir in the vinegar and water. Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream, whisking all the while until emulsified.

*The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

From Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, with Anna Kovel. Copyright ©2022 by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Jody Williams (left) met Rita Sodi after visiting the former’s restaurant after following the encouragement from friends. Together they opened Via Carota. Photo by Gentl & Hyers.

Layered simplicity is the cornerstone of the menu at Via Carota with an emphasis on vegetables with Italian roots. Chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi share restaurant recipes in their latest cookbook. Photo courtesy of Alfred A. Knoff.