Recipe of the Month August: Sausage and Clams

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Buon giorno!

So I just returned from my 50th high school reunion in Binghamton, NY, where I was fortunate to rekindle friendships with some of the finest people I have ever known. In a word, it was somewhat surreal! Since this event, I have thought of little else, along with memories of all sorts of fun times and yes, even some mischief. Some of the memories that came to mind involved clambakes at a place called “Mountain Top” where we consumed more clams on those warm days than you might think possible in a place so far inland and also sausage and pepper sandwiches, on the bill of fare at well attended Italian festivals.

I began to yearn for those flavors and decided to put together a little Italian dish in honor of those good folks with whom I reunited, combining the distinctive flavors I remembered so well at the clambakes and festivals of my youth. Here we have it – – SAUSAGE AND CLAMS. (I should have called this “Bowls of Heaven”!)

You might wonder how this duo might be at all complimentary, but I assure you that when the briny/sweet clams come together with pork sausage, it is magic time. The broth that is so simply created in this recipe makes good crusty Italian bread an essential ingredient to make this dish truly complete. The broth itself is so extraordinary as to enchant even the most skeptical of gourmands at your table. The looks you will receive and the sounds that you will hear upon serving this dish, laden with the golden broth in particular, are sure to please you and validate your efforts.

Clams and Sausage 1

This dish is surprisingly easy to prepare and an especially good one to choose for a crowd. Your Italian guests will appreciate the flavor similarity to an old fashioned sausage and peppers sandwich especially when they begin to scoop up the peppers and onions from the broth.. but then of course the twist of the added clams will surely send them into outer orbit. Obviously, the merging of the special flavors of the clams and the sausage might be wonderful enough, but the real secret to a truly successful preparation is one that is true of almost any Italian dish – FRESH INGREDIENTS! The freshness makes all the difference in this recipe. Just look at the ingredients below, and you will see that almost everything involved is fresh.

This amazing dish is almost a soup, could be a stew, but is definitely a flavor bomb! You can’t take a wrong turn with it. It is easy, fairly quick to prepare, and will make you a star in your own kitchen. Get the bowls ready… and don’t forget the bread!

Yeah. yeah, I know THE WINE!!! I am a fan of the beautiful Italian white wine, Falanghina, with any seafood dish. It is simply made to order for seafood and almost bears the very essence of the Mediterranean. For those who might like a red which would actually be lovely with the sausage, I might like a lighter red, like a Dolcetto or even a Barbera – but nothing too heavy.

I will leave you with a cautionary tale…When you buy your fresh clams, do NOT close the bag before cooking them. Clams are living things and need to breathe just like you do. I remember going to my local fish market and while waiting for my turn, overheard the gentleman customer ahead of me rudely berating my fish monger for handing him an open bag of clams.

CUSTOMER: “You are not going to even bother to close the bag?? What kind of service is this?” he said in a very loud voice. My fish monger was speechless and seemed embarrassed.

ME (sticking my nose where it did not belong – a bad habit): “Sir, do you plan to eat those clams?”

CUSTOMER: “Well, of course, I am”. (Responding in a very haughty and mind your own business tone)

ME: “ If that is the case, you better leave that bag wide open or you will have dead clams for dinner! This man did you a favor giving you an open bag allowing the clams to breathe!”

He never said a word of apology and stalked off with the open bag of clams. I, on the other hand, got free fish that day!

Now while I am off to Mountain Top or an Italian festival in my dreams, or maybe just the patio –  here are the keys to the kingdom:


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes


1/2 Stick (4 Tbsp.) Butter

1/4 C. Olive Oil

1 lb. Italian Sausage, sliced

I Onion, thinly sliced

1 Green Pepper, sliced thinly

2 Cups Sweet Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

Red Pepper Flakes – amount up to you but at least 1/4 tsp recommended

3 Fresh Cloves Garlic, chopped finely

A good handful fresh flat leaf Italian Parsley – chopped

About 50 Clams – I like Littleneck, scrubbed and rinsed

3/4 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1/4 cup Bottled Clam Juice

Zest of one fresh lemon

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a good one – for drizzle


In a wide pan, place butter and oil and heat. Add Sausage, onion, pepper, tomatoes,  red pepper flakes and cook until sausage is browned and veggies are just tender – about 10-15 minutes.

Clams and Sausage 2

In last 5 minutes of cooking, add the chopped garlic, black pepper, and parsley.

Clams and Sausage 3

Give a quick scrub to the outside of the clams with a brush under running water. This is important! Then add the clams to the pan. Pour the wine and clam juice over them. Add the lemon zest .

Sausage and Clams 4

Cover and cook about 8-10 minutes. Uncover and check to see if any of the clams did not open. If there are some, you might cook another minute or two. Sometimes if the clams are larger, they need more time. If any remain unopened, discard them!

Sausage and Clams 5

Taste the broth for seasoning – You should not need salt at all – but if you would like it – add it now.

Garnish with fresh parsley and served in bowls with plenty of Italian bread for dunking.

A drizzle of good Extra Virgin Olive oil before serving finishes the dish!

It’s showtime!!!





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Pasta with Shrimp and Greens

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Buon giorno!

Pasta is a great energy food. Bikers, runners, and those who need to pack the carbs for a sports event have known this for years. Of course, Italians have always known there was something good and wholesome about it. When you add healthy ingredients which combine to offer great flavor it is a match made in — well you know where! PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is an easy dish to prepare and has a freshness about it that should please everyone.

In the photo, I have used an artisan pasta made from tomato pesto. You certainly do not have to select artisan pasta. Any Spaghetti or Capellini of your choice would work perfectly. The sundried tomatoes bring a touch of sweetness to this that would be missed if not included. I was fortunate for this preparation to get some freshly dried ones at the Farmer’s Market and some fresh Georgia shrimp that came right off the boat the day before – ahhhh!

Warning – there will be no leftovers! Marone what a dish!


Serves: 2

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 15 minutes


8 oz. Spaghetti, Cappellini etc. prepared according to package directions – or pasta fresca!

1 Bunch Fresh Swiss Chard – Rainbow is nice! (you can also use spinach if you like)

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2-2/3 Cup Sundried Tomatoes – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped

1 lb. Large Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

Salt and Pepper to taste


Rinse your Swiss Chard and chop coarsely. Drop into a pot of boiling lightly salted water and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain well. Set aside.

In a pan, saute the garlic and sundried tomatoes for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Do not burn the garlic!

Add the shrimp, red pepper, basil, and Swiss Chard. Then add the wine. Toss in the pan and cook  over medium-medium high until the shrimp is just opaque – about 3-4 minutes – no more!

Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

Pour over your cooked pasta and prepare for an amazing taste experience!

This PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND GREENS is one of those pasta dishes that is just perfect for patio dining or “date night” with a bottle of Falanghina – the Italian white just made for seafood!


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July:Frutti di Mare On the Grill

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Buon giorno!

There is no shortage of recipes for Frutti di Mare. Literally it means “fruits of the sea” – more to the point: seafood! The term and recipes are most closely associated with the Amalfi Coast and Bay of Naples, although you can find them from other regions sometimes given different names. the term, Frutti di Mare, is more often seen in recipes for spaghetti and linguine but the preparation is similar also to the Italian fish soup, Zuppa di Pesce.

In the featured recipe here, we are taking the traditional idea of Frutti di Mare and cooking it on the grill in packets – thus, FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL!  If you love seafoood, will be right at home with this one especially after you see the ease with which you can prepare it. The flavor is amazing and you will be transported immediately to the Italian coast with the resulting aroma. It is simply…divine!

Part of the fun of this recipe is choosing the seafood. It is totally up to you as to what you ultimately select. Choose your favorite shellfish items or even chunks of cod or haddock. It is your “oyster” – choose everything you love!

The key to this recipe is organization – having everything ready to go and distributing the ingredients into the assorted packages. This is sooo easy and everyone will love you for it! It is not only fun to serve but your guests and family will have a ball with it – each person focusing and plowing through his packet – noting with hoots and hollers about all of the favorite seafood items inside.

Although you can serve it any time of year, the recipe cries out for a balmy patio evening, a gentle breeze, and an amazing wine – perhaps a Rosato! But please don’t forget the Italian songs that will lull your guests so beautifully into thinking they are dining on a high patio overlooking the fabulous Amalfi Coast.


Serves: 4

Prep: About 30 minutes

Cook: About 20 minutes


4 Large Pieces of Foil – about 18 “


1/2 lb. Calamari (Squid) Tubes (tentacles also if you like) cut into rings

16 Large Fresh Shrimp, cleaned and shelled

12 Fresh Mussels, with outside of shells cleaned with a brush under running water

20 Small Clams  ( I like Littlenecks or Cockles for this dish but any will do!) – outer shells brushed under running water to clean


2  6-8 oz. Lobster Tails, each cut in half with meat loosened from the shell


2-3 Italian Sausage Links – cut into rounds

2 Large Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

3-4 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes – cut up in small pieces – skins on (I like to microwave these for a couple of minutes first to begin the cooking process.)

1 Fennel Bulb, sliced thinly

4 Springs Fresh Tarragon

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

4 Slices Fresh Orange + 1 Squeeze of fresh juice per packet

Dash Red Pepper Flakes per packet

Pinch of Saffron per packet

Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

About 1/2 Cup Crushed San Marzano tomatoes per packet

Splash of Dry White wine per packet

Splash of Clam Juice per packet

Dash of Sambuca per packet (optional but a great addition!)

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per packet


DON’T  be discouraged by the number of ingredients here. This recipe comes together 1-2-3! Enlist your guest to help!

Get all of your ingredients ready and lined up to go.

Lay out the foil sheets and evenly distribute the seafood, sausage, potatoes, fennel, and garlic on the bottom half of each sheet.

You might want to curl the foil edges upward a bit so that liquid does not run out.

Then top these ingredients with the tomatoes next – followed by the herbs, orange, orange juice squeeze, red pepper, saffron, salt, pepper, wine, clam juice and Sambuca.

End with a nice drizzle of Extra Virgin.

Frutti di mare 1

Fold the top half of foil sheet over the bottom half with the ingredients on it and quickly roll up the edges around 3 sides tightly!

Place them on a platter and take them to the grill.

Frutti di mare 2

The grill should be very hot – around 450 degrees. Close the top of the grill and cook 20 minutes.

Remove the packets and give each guest one of them. Caution them to open carefully as the steam coming out is HOT! If any of the clams or mussels have not opened, return the packet to the grill for 4-5 minutes. Some of these  are stubborn! If still not open, discard them.

Place a bowl in the center of the table for discarded shells.


When you see how easy FRUTTI DI MARE ON THE GRILL is to make – you’ll want to make this all summer long!


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Baked Stuffed Haddock

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Buon giorno!

Italians love fish and serve it in all sorts of ways. Here is a beautiful BAKED STUFFED HADDOCK which is so rich and delicious that you would think it must be over the top in unhealthy ingredients. NOT! The preparation is simple and contains no butter despite the buttery flavor. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare and cooks in slightly less time than that.

The selection of fish is yours. If you cannot find haddock which I highly recommend for its “almost lobster” consistency, you will have success with Cod, Snapper, Flounder, or even Branzino. These are all choices that are generally moist. For me, the choice of haddock is just perfection!

This is a dish that almost makes you feel like there is sand under your toes with its “beachy” essence!

Let’s begin!


Serves: 2-3

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: about 25 minutes


3/4 lb. Haddock fillet ( or similar fish)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 Onion – chopped

1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Chives

1 Clove Garlic chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped

1/2 Tsp. Dried Oregano or 1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano

1 1/2 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs

4 Whole Artichoke Hearts (canned is fine) – rinsed, drained, and chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice – divided

2 Tbsp. Clam Juice

1/4 C. Dry White Wine

1/2 C. Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese – grated

Old Bay Seasoning

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Place Haddock fillet on greased foil in pan.

Drizzle with a little of the extra virgin olive oil.

In a pan, heat the olive oil along with the chopped onion and chives.

Add the garlic and toss in the pan about a minute.

Add artichoke hearts, oregano, and basil to the pan, tossing lightly at medium high.

Add the clam juice, white wine, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and fresh breadcrumbs, cooking 3 minutes more.

Remove from heat and add the grated cheese – mix.

Place stuffing on top of the fish and press lightly to make it adhere and stay on the fish.

Drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice over the stuffing and drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Sprinkle the top of the stuffing with the Old Bay Seasoning.

Haddock 1

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. I like to cook this on the top shelf of the oven for nice browning and toasting of the crumbs.

Even those who are, shall we say, “less enchanted” with fish have loved this BAKED STUFFED HADDOCK. Serve it with a dry white wine or a Rosato!


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Venetian Sole

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Buon giorno!

Usually you will find some lore or history with the regional signature dishes. There is almost always a “back story”. VENETIAN SOLE is no different. It is sometimes referred to as ‘’”marinated sole” because most of the old recipes call for marinating the fish after cooking for a couple days. Today’s recipe has most of the elements of the original – except that you will not have to marinate it.

Italians have always been quite observant of the religious feast days, and through centuries have celebrated them with specific dishes. The original dish was a traditional one served on a feast day – the evening of the Feast of the Holy Redeemer followed by fireworks.

For those who love fish and are familiar with Dover Sole, you know how wonderful this fish can be. It is a true gift from the sea. It’s buttery flavor is like no other. However, not everyone can get it, and it can be expensive. I would suggest, if you cannot get the Sole, to substitute with another similar fish in texture and thickness. Sole fillets (the French spelling) are very thin and light. They are well suited to pan frying. As a substitute, you might try a similar white fish like Tilapia or even flounder which is a little thicker and denser usually. This is not a recipe for thick fish like swordfish, etc.

The Venetians usually pan fry the fish, and then marinate it in a vinegar and spice dressing for a couple of days – kind of pickling the fish. Only then it is time to eat it, and it is served cold. This recipe will follow the original in pan frying.  Instead of marinating, we will then use the same ingredients as with the marinade to make a simple sweet sauce to pour over the fish using the same pan. From there, we will take it to the table warm and …well… devour!

This preparation includes a sweet and slightly piquant sauce using White Balsamic Vinegar which, as it cooks down, brings the sweetness. The savory and buttery fish with the sweet sauce is very reminiscent of the original and creates an interesting dish overall which is balanced and complex in flavor.

The resulting dish is light and lovely! It is a delicious version of the original recipe which is unique and elegant to serve.


Serves 2-3

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


4 Sole Fillets (or similar white fish) – patted dry with paper towels

1/3 Cup Flour seasoned with salt and pepper

6 Tbsp. Butter – divided in half

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion, sliced very thinly

1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 Cup White Wine – dry (dry Vermouth is fine also)

1 Tsp. Lemon Zest

Pinch of Cinnamon

3 Whole Cloves

3 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

3 Tbsp. Golden Raisins

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


I recommend getting all ingredients ready before you begin for a very smooth process.

Dredge the fish fillets in the seasoned flour and set aside.

Sole 1

Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in the pan along with 1 Tbsp. oil at medium heat. Let the butter begin to brown slightly.

Add the fillets to the pan in batches, a couple at a time and cook at reduced heat for a couple of minutes each side.

Sole 2

Sole 3

Remove to a plate and keep warm.

When all fillets are cooked – keep them in a warm oven while you proceed with the sauce.

In the same pan, add the remaining 3 Tbsp. Butter and melt. Add the sliced onions and remaining ingredients except for salt, pepper, and parsley. and cook until onions are tender – about 8-10 minutes.

Sole 4

Add Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the cloves, if you like.

Pour the pan ingredients immediately over the top of the fish. Garnish and serve.


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Trout with Lemon and Capers

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Trota – Italian Style!

Trout finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Trout? Italy? Really? You betcha! Trout or trota is found, fished, and eaten in several areas of Italy – Piemonte, Umbria, Tuscany, Lake Garda, and even Sardinia for starters! Those of you growing up in Italian homes and who also had fathers who lived for fishing, as I did,  will remember the lovely tender trout  – rainbow, brook, brown, and lake, perfectly filleted and prepared at home with a little of this and a little of that. These wonderful fish, freshly prepared at home, provided some of the most memorable dinners for us. I shall refer to the dish as TROUT WITH LEMON AND CAPERS. Undoubtedly, some of you may be familiar with the dish and its ingredients and remember how tender and buttery it was.

Actually, fly fishing is not uncommon in Italy. In several areas of Umbria and Tuscany, you will find that the “catch and release” system is in full use for fly fishermen. You will find brown, rainbow, leopard, and marble trout.

Thanks to the wonders of modern markets, we don’t have to have a fisherman in the house to provide fresh and delicious trout for us. Most fish markets and grocers carry fresh trout regularly. Usually, the trout you will find will be rainbow trout. The types of trout you will find may depend on your location, but occasionally, you will also find lake trout, as you see used in the photos here. The lake trout is larger and the fillets are thicker. The resulting buttery flavor remains the same with either.

One thing I particularly love about trout, aside from its flavor and ease of cooking, is that it is NOT fishy tasting,as with many fresh water fish. It has wonderful flavor that should appeal to everyone.

So let’s think trout… and think Italian! Now, for a SERIOUSLY delicious dish!!


Serves: 2-3

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10-15 minutes


2 Fresh Any Type of Trout Fillets – 1 – 1 1/4 lb. total

(Lake Trout used for photos – if thinner fillets you may need less cooking time)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

Dried Oregano

1/4 C. Capers – rinsed and drained

3 Pats Butter per fillet

Thin Slices Fresh Lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

White Wine (optional)


Lay your fillets in an Oiled pan.

Drizzle with a nice Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Distribute the finely chopped garlic over the top.

Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the fillets with dried oregano.

Add the capers on the top of both fillets.

Follow with the pats of butter.

Top with lemon slices.

Finally, sprinkle with some white wine. (optional)

Trout 1

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes depending upon thickness of fillets until done.

A decision on a wine pairing with fish isn’t always what you’d expect. With TROUT WITH LEMON AND CAPERS, I like a wine that is more buttery and has a little more body. I like a buttery Chardonnay or a Rosé with this one because of the way the dish is prepared with the rich flavors of the butter and herbs along with the flavor of the trout.


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July: Amalfi Clams

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Simply the Best Clams Ever!

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Buon giorno!

Did I just say the best clams EVER??? I did and I do! You will want these AMALFI CLAMS on your summer menus. Whether you offer them as a first course, appetizer, or main event, prepare yourself for the raves! In fact I highly recommend making twice a much as you planned. These are just that wonderful. This is truly a dish to remember.

The Amalfi coast is known for their phenomenal seafood and seafood preparations. The squid, the mussels, the crab, the clams, the cuttlefish and sea urchins – it is a treasure trove of wonder when one thinks of the bounty that comes from this area.The tiny clams, in particular, that they serve are tender and sweet.

In making the clams for this recipe, I highly recommend using Manila Clams or the small Littlenecks. You can use the larger ones but this dish is a little more delicate and I think better with the smaller clams. The clams will emit liquid, salt, and flavor. Therefore you will not see salt in the ingredients list. If you taste them, after cooking, and still think they need it – then add the salt – but this is one of those flavor experiences that is best created by the ingredients themselves. All you need to do is add them!

I would serve this dish anytime, but it just seems better in the heat of the summer when you let your senses drift to dreams of the gentle Amalfi breezes during this season. Simply taste the broth, and just float, as they say.

If you serve this one as a main course, I would suggest rice rather than pasta. This is such a delicate dish that pasta is almost too much for it. I especially love serving it, on its own, in bowls, as a first course or appetizer, with plenty of broth and a crusty grilled sliced of bread with olive oil. You need nothing else — unless of course, it is the remainder of that bottle of Prosecco you just used to make it!

Does the tiny bit of Sambuca make a difference and what is Sambuca doing in the dish anyway? Good question – who asked it? Oh! that was moi! The Sambuca gives it a slight edge. It is similar to the use of Pernod by the French in Bouillabaisse and by me in my Zuppa di Pesce! Without this little kick – it just isn’t the same – but please just a touch.

Vieni sul mar,
vieni a vogar,
sentirai l’ebbrezza
del tuo marinar.

(la – la la – la -la…)

Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 16-18 minutes


2 dozen Fresh Littleneck Clams or Manila Clams

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot (usually a double bulb)

1 Cup Finely chopped Sweet Peppers – I like the mini peppers

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

Dash Red Pepper flakes

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Cup Prosecco (or Cava or Champagne)

1-2 Tsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

A generous squeeze of fresh Lemon

Some Fennel fronds for garnish – These are the fine and delicate greens that emanate from the fennel bulb. They smell wonderful and make a great garnish.


Scrub your clams lightly with a brush under some running water and set them aside in the refrigerator while you prepare. Do not seal them up as they are living things and need to breathe. Think about it – you wouldn’t want someone sealing you up in a ziploc bag until dinner time!

Melt your butter in the olive oil and add the peppers, shallots, fennel and red pepper flakes. Cook on Medium High about 5 minutes.

Amalfi Clams 1

Add garlic and cook another minute being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.

Add your clams!

Crush the saffron threads with your fingers and add them to the Prosecco. Now pour the Prosecco and Sambuca into the pan.

Amalfi Clams 2

Add the parsley and quickly cover the pan.

Simmer about 8-10 minutes. If your clams are large you may need a few more minutes. Make sure ALL the clams open, and discard any that do not. Larger clams might take a couple of minutes more.

Give a quick squeeze of the lemon.

There are two ways to serve the loveliness of these AMALFI CLAMS:  Serve them piled high in a bowl with a large grilled slice of crusty bread brushed with olive oil OR you can serve them over rice. Either way – you will love them and serve them often as I do. There is simply no better summertime seafood dish than this one!

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Gnocchetti with Shrimp Sauce

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Celebrate Carnevale!

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Buon giorno!

Carnevale begins in Italy and with it come the hearty luscious and tastefully extravagant dishes everyone loves at this time of year – lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini etc. The heavier the better is expected during this time of revelry and otherwise throwing all caution to the wind especially regarding food. Along with the masks and costumes come the favorite dishes of each region. Everyone is mindful that when Carnevale ends, Lent begins, along with abstinence from the foods we love best. Let’s celebrate this festival season with GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE – a both decadent and comforting dish which is wonderful to eat and serve anytime but especially in celebration of Carnevale and the weeks leading up to Lent and its more, shall we say, spartan dining.

Gnocchetti?? Most of us are familiar with gnocchi, but what are gnocchetti? They are simply tiny gnocchi in the shape of little balls. They are made in exactly the same way – using the potato dough. The difference is that you cut them in a smaller size and roll them into little balls instead of leaving them as pillows or rolling them in more of a cavatelli shape as many are used to. This is very easy to do. You can make them ahead and freeze them by laying them out on a tray in a single layer – freezing them and then dropping them in plastic bags  to keep frozen until ready to cook.

For more information on gnocchi making, see this post: Gnocchi – It’s Pillow Talk!

Cooking gnocchi and gnocchetti: If frozen, defrosting gnocchi or gnocchetti before cooking is not only unnecessary but not advised. You simply drop them frozen into boiling water and wait a minute or two for them to rise to the top – then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or strainer. I like to cook them in a shallow pan instead of a big pot – maybe a third at a time. This prevents clumping and sticking together.

The Shrimp Sauce: This is a beautiful sauce – just perfect for gnocchi or gnocchetti. It has tremendous flavor and has a great comfort factor. The best part is that it is easy to make!

This is a terrific way to usher in the joyous Carnevale season, but this is far too special a dish to save for once a year. Serve this one all year round!! A truly beautiful dish!



Makes: About 3 lb.

Prep: 90 minutes

Cook: about 2 minutes


5 Russet or Baking Potatoes (the BEST potatoes for making gnocchi or gnocchetti)

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour + a little extra for rolling

1 Tsp. Salt

2 Large Egg Yolks


Boil the potatoes to fork tender – takes about 30-40 minutes.

When ready – let the potatoes cool for JUST a few minutes. Then peel them. A fork helps, but the skins come right off with little coaxing. I sometimes like to use disposable gloves to keep from burning my fingers.

Once peeled, put the potatoes through a ricer and let the riced potatoes fall onto a board in a mound. This is a very easy and quick step.


Next add your flour and salt and work into the potatoes.

When partially combined, add the egg yolks and finish forming your dough to a smooth finish. This takes place pretty quickly and is a much easier dough to handle than pasta. No kneading necessary. As a matter of fact, it is discouraged for tender gnocchi. You can add a  LITTLE extra flour if needed  and your dough is too sticky to handle – but do NOT add too much.

Potato Gnocchi dough

Divide your dough into 4 balls. You can divide each ball again for easier handling if you like.

Roll each into a “snake” or rope.

Rolling Potato Gnocchi

With a knife cut the rope into 1/3 inch pieces for gnocchetti – into 1 inch pieces (pillows) for regular gnocchi. It helps to add a little flour to your knife.

Cutting gnocchetti

For gnocchetti, roll the pieces in the palms of your floured hands into little balls and place on a floured surface.

Gnocchetti balls

If freezing, freeze first in a single layer to keep them from sticking, and then place them in a plastic bag to freeze for later use.

For more instructions on step by step regular size gnocchi making like the ones below, visit this post on making gnocchi: HERE


To cook the frozen gnocchetti or gnocchi, add them to boiling water straight from the freezer. Do not defrost ahead. I have had more success with using a shallow pan to cook them in rather than a large pot – less sticking. They take just a couple of minutes to cook. Once they rise to the top – they are ready for you to remove them. Use a strainer, spider, or slotted spoon. I don’t like colanders for this.

Add your sauce and garnish and enjoy!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes


1 lb. Gnocchi or Gnocchetti – cooked

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Chopped Onion

1 lb. Shrimp, cleaned and shells removed

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Bay Leaf

1/2 C. Parsley + some for garnish

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1/8-1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Slice Fresh Lemon Peel

1/2 C. Crushed Tomatoes (I prefer to crush my own.)

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 C. Mascarpone Cheese

Fresh Parsley for garnish


Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 1

Add the shrimp, garlic, Bay Leaf, parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, and toss in the pan a couple of minutes to begin cooking.

Shrimp Sauce 2

Dissolve the tomato paste in the wine, and add it along with the Lemon Peel slice to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer about 4 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 4

Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Shrimp Sauce 5

Cook at a simmer for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let sit a minute to cool a bit.

Remove the Bay Leaf and Thyme sprigs and discard.

Turn your heat back on at a low level and add the Mascarpone. Stir in as it melts. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL – SAUCE MAY SEPARATE!

Shrimp Sauce 6

Garnish with parsley.

You can use this sauce with Gnocchetti as shown or gnocchi.

Shrimp Sauce with Gnocchetti finish 2 with script

Serve your GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE with a crusty Italian bread. You might consider frying some of the bread slices in a little olive oil and serving a couple with each dish. BELLISSIMA!


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Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce

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Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

We hear so much, as Italians, about the famous Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. We could recite so many of those traditional dishes: Stuffed Calamari, Baccala Salad and Soup, Smelts, Eel, Octopus, Codfish Balls, Clams Oreganata, Clam Sauce etc. The list is endless. Some of you less familiar might be a little unsure about trying some of those dishes. Today we have a pasta dish that everyone will love that isn’t quite.. shall we say.. exotic? ORECCHIETTE WITH BABY SHRIMP AND PROSECCO SAUCE is a delicately flavored pasta dish that is suitable for this famous feast, but also for a lovely candlelight dinner anytime of the year –or even New Year’s Eve.

Orecchiette is a form of pasta that is shaped like little cups. It may not be familiar to you, but it is easily found in the dry pasta area of most grocers. Orecchiette actually means “little ears” in Italian’’.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 1

The Orecchiette is so appropriate for a sauce as lovely as this one, that it deserves to become trapped, if you will, or caught in the nooks and crannies of each little “ear”. PRESECCO SAUCE is definitely one of those sauces – delicate, almost sweet, and light even with the presence of cream. This sauce and pasta are just waiting for a special evening as a beautiful first course or for the main event.

An added benefit to the making of this simple dish is the aroma while it’s cooking. Oh my my my…

And.. yes .. it contains butter. I heard on TV recently that butter is back, and it’s all good now. Oh realllly– I was not aware that it ever left!

As if you needed another reason to make this, there is the Prosecco – light, bubbly, and festive – drink it right along with the sauce as you cook it.


Serves: 4

Prep: 30 minutes


1 lb. Orecchiette Pasta

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

1 Whole Shallot finely chopped

1 lb. Raw Baby Shrimp, peeled

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Basil

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/2 C. Prosecco

1/2 C. Heavy Cream – warmed

1 Tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh chopped basil for garnish


Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Drinking the Prosecco as you prepare the sauce is highly recommended for preparing the mood!

Melt the butter in a pan with the olive oil. Cook the shallot in the pan until tender.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 2

Add the shrimp, garlic, and basil – simmer a minute to blend.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 3

Dissolve the tomato paste in the Prosecco and add to the pan.

Cook down about 5 minutes at a strong simmer.

Turn off the heat – cool a minute and add the warmed cream, stirring in to blend.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce 5

Add the tablespoon of butter, melt and heat through.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add sauce to pasta, mix, and garnish with basil before serving.

Orecchiette with Baby Shrimp and Prosecco Sauce finish 2 with script

Of course, to serve your ORECCHIETTE WITH BABY SHRIMP AND PROSECCO SAUCE,  the obvious choice of pairing is…PROSECCO!


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December: Zuppa di Pesce

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Seafood Stew Buon Natale

Buon giorno!

Buona festa a tutti! It’s that time of year when Italians turn their attention to things “fishy”. Why? It’s that Christmas Eve thing – you know – choosing the dishes for the great night before Christmas dinner, known as “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. It’s funny though – that it is different in every household with some serving the 7 dishes – some serving more than seven – and some serving fewer than 7. The important thing here is that these dishes are carefully chosen and revered in family lore. One of them that speaks “Natale” to so many and is among the best known is the ZUPPA DI PESCE or Italian fish stew or soup. This dish – evokes mouthwatering memories that run deep into my soul. There are no other flavors – so delicate – yet so bold that remind me of more of an Italian Christmas than those in this dish.

It is not a difficult recipe. The key to its success is freshness! As in all Italian dishes, fresh ingredients reign supreme. For this one, I would say freshness makes or breaks the dish. Whether you use all of the fresh fish recommended, or some of them, or even add others – the important thing to remember is to rely on fresh seafood. Aside from that, truly, you cannot mess this up.

Reminiscent of the well known French Bouillabaisse, ZUPPA DI PESCE is a dish found by many names depending where you are in Italy – or what your family decided long ago to call it because of their region of origin. It is Cacciucco in Tuscany and in the coastal areas of Liguria. It is Cioppino by the Italian-American families of the San Francisco area. If you are boating around Sardinia, you will hear it called La Cassola. The original recipes for the Sardinian version use local fish like dogfish, eel, skate etc. Sicily offers Zuppa di Pesce Siracusana ( in the style of Syracusa) which is a baked stew served with toasted bread. However, Southern Italy – most notably Campania or Naples,  is the area most associated with ZUPPA DI PESCE ,as we most often speak of it, with tomatoes, herbs, hot pepper, and garlic, and just as you see it here.

All of these preparations have one thing in common – the need to be served with plentiful amounts of crusty Italian bread or Crostini!

Because, my father, Attilio, who was from the Campania region, made this soup so artfully, I dedicate this recipe to him and think he might find it quite familiar!


Serves: about 6


1/2 C. Olive Oil

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

1 Large Onion – sliced thinly

1 Large (or 2 Medium) Fennel Bulb – sliced

3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled – cut up

2 Stalks Celery – chopped coarsely

A few baby carrots – chopped coarsely (6-7)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano – chopped

1/2 C. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

3 Tbsp. Pernod or Sambuca

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes – I like to use whole peeled and then crush them with clean hands

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

4 Cups Seafood Stock or Clam Juice

Salt and Pepper to taste


1 lb. Cleaned Calamari  – cut into rings – include the tentacles!

1 lb. Fresh Cod – cut into large pieces

A large bag (about 30) Littleneck Clams – scrub the shells well!

2 lb. Very Large Shrimp – cleaned and peeled

1 lb. Sea Scallops – cut in half or horizontally

3 Medium Lobster Tails – or 2 Large ones – cut each into a few large pieces, leaving shell  intact


In the olive oil added to a large pot, cook the next 8 ingredients about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Seafood stew 1

Add the wine and Pernod or Sambuca – Cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes, the red pepper flakes, and the stock or clam juice.

Seafood Stew 2

Then add the clams being first sure to brush and clean their shells well.

Seafood Stew 3

Cover and bring to a boil – Reduce heat to medium and cook about 20 minutes. Check and see if all clams are open. If not – cook another 5 or so minutes. Some are a little stubborn and need more cooking time.

Then remove and clams that have not opened and discard.

Remove the opened clams with shells carefully with a slotted spoon to a dish and reserve.

Add the calamari, cod, shrimp, scallops, and lobster to the pot.

Stir gently and cook about 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Do not over cook.

Add the clams back to the pot.

Taste for seasoning – adding salt and pepper as needed.

Seafood Stew 4 with script

Serve with the garnish below.


Fresh Lemon Wedges

Lots of fresh chopped Italian Parsley

This ZUPPA DI PESCE  is both beautiful and fun to serve. You will be so proud to have this dish at your table and hear the audible gasps. Serve this amazingly flavorful concoction with large Crostini as you see in the photo. For more delicious ways to serve Crostini, check out my ebook “For Love of Crostini”: HERE 

For a perfect pairing with this Southern Italian interpretation, serve this dish with a crisp Falanghina, the Italian white wine that was “made for” seafood.


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Soft Shell Crabs Italian Style

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Mangia le moleche!

Softshell crab 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Sometimes being “crabby” is a good thing!

crabs 2

It’s that time again! Yes, it’s that special time of year, from late spring and through the summer months, in the US when crabs shed their hard shells like the ones you see in the photo above. The soft shell crabs are soft enough to eat WHOLE! Ahhhh—When their season arrives, I can’t wait to see them in the fish markets. One scrumptious way to enjoy them is lightly fried with a little roasted red pepper sauce – or as I like to call them – SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE. Once you try these – you too will become one of those who longs for their season each year.

Italian crabs? Really? Si!  In Italy, the crabs are much smaller, but no less delectable than the blue crabs of the US. Their seasonal shedding of their shells is quite similar, though to our crabs here in this country. Italian crabs or moleche (mo-lekka) two seasons, fall and spring. The seasons are short and usually celebrated in Northern Italy in the Veneto region. You either time it right or you don’t – che peccato!  In the Venice area, you can actually find farms where they raise them. Often they are served with polenta.

Probably my favorite way to enjoy these amazing critters is coated and lightly fried  – open face on fried Italian bread  – with a cold roasted red pepper sauce. You will be amazed at how easy this is to achieve! The dredging mixture and the red pepper sauce can both be made ahead, and the frying takes just a few minutes. Another good thing – you don’t use much oil.


Serves: 2

Prep: one hour approx.


2 Soft Shell Crabs (they should be ready to cook when purchased – if necessary remove the eyes and mouth)

Olive Oil for frying


1/2 Cup Flour

1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (found in spice section at grocer or at fish counter)

1 Tsp. Dried Oregano

Dash Cayenne Pepper

Salt and Pepper


3/4 Cup Roasted Red Peppers (make your own or from the jar, drained)

1/3 Cup Mayonnaise

1 Fresh Clove Garlic

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley


2 Thick slices Italian bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Romaine Lettuce

Italian Parsley for garnish


For the flour dredging mixture – Just mix the ingredients for dredging together well. This can be made ahead and kept in a covered container in the pantry.

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce – This can be made ahead and refrigerated. Roast your own peppers or use the ones in the jar, making sure to drain them. Place them in your blender or food processor along with the garlic and whirl until smooth. There will still be tiny bits of pepper – all good! Add the other ingredients for the sauce and whirl to combine. This makes about a cup of sauce. Use the leftover sauce on chicken, fish, or sandwiches!

Sauce ingredients

To construct the sandwich:

Brush the bread with the Extra Virgin – both sides – and lightly fry in a pan or griddle until both sides are golden and crisp.

Place some Romaine Lettuce on top of each slice and drizzle with Extra Virgin and light squeeze of fresh lemon.

Dredge the crab in the flour mixture, coating both sides well.

Heat Olive Oil in a pan and get it very hot. Place the crab in the pan and at medium high, fry the crab lightly on each side until a beautiful golden brown. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Then place the crab on top of the lettuce, belly side up, and drizzle very lightly with Extra Virgin.

Top with the cold or room temperature Red Pepper Sauce and garnish with fresh parsley.

Now your SOFT SHELL CRABS ITALIAN STYLE are ready to eat! Prepare to fall in love! I like mine with a glass of champagne or prosecco  – but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve a gorgeous Rosé or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.


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Crab Oreganata

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Crab finish with script

   Buon giorno!

Anything “oreganata” always reminds me of my Dad, Attilio. My CRAB OREGANATA is really a tribute to him. He loved to cook in the Napoetana style, and he was clearly good at it. When it came to seafood, in my opinion, he had no competition. He always seemed to know how to treat the treasures from the sea, respected them as an avid fisherman would, and knew how little actual cooking time they needed. We were raised with his seafood dishes and pretty much took them for granted. Looking back – they appear as gifts now to his family, as we try and mostly fail to equal his talent.

There was a ritual on Christmas Eve involving my father and his Clams Oreganata. As adult children, each year when we arrived at the back door (no one used the front door!), the captivating aroma of those clams was the first invitation to our senses, drawing us in. He greeted us personally with a hardy “Buon Natale”, along with a glass of champagne and one of his amazing clams! He smiled and his eyes sparkled knowing that he had created something very special for his family. It was always the same – we expected it – we loved it  – as this was the start of an evening of Italian seafood delights.

It is my belief that the Oreganata style of seafood preparation is so wonderful that it should not be reserved for holidays. The CRAB OREGANATA that we talk about here is a great dish for patio and outdoor dining as well. It is so simple – can be prepared hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator to be baked quickly right before serving. This dish can be made in shells as you see here – the large ones for a sit-down appetizer or first course or in small shells for a crowd. If you don’t have the shells – you can prepare it just as successfully in a baking dish.

Some tips: As with all Italian dishes, it is all about the ingredients. I always instruct in my classes that anything you make will taste like the ingredients you use. That is why I always recommend the freshest ingredients for the most part. Using fresh herbs in this dish makes all the difference along with fresh garlic. I like Lump Crab or Jumbo Lump Crab here. Your flavor is better – the consistency is better – and this type of crab meat is always cleaner of tiny shell pieces. It is more expensive but worth it! I caution you not to break up the crab pieces too much and to mix gently. A gentle hand keeps the “integrity” of the meat. When these wonderful larger pieces of lump crab hit your tongue, it is sweet ecstasy! The best part of this preparation is that it is one of those “one bowl wonders” – easy! Lastly – bringing out your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil for that last drizzle before serving is a touch you don’t want to miss. Be generous with it.

Hey! The patio is ready – the sun is going down  – and the glasses are poured – ANDIAMO!


Serves: 4 as a first course; 10-12 if served in small shells

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 10-12 minutes


1/2 lb. Jump Lump or Lump Crabmeat

2 C. Fresh white breadcrumbs + extra to sprinkle on top

2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano Leaves – chopped + extra for garnish

1 Tbsp. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

2 Tbsp. Capers, rinsed and drained

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano grated

2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/3 C. Olive Oil

Coarse Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle prior to serving


Pick through the crabmeat a little to check for shell pieces. Lump and Jumbo Lump are usually clear of these. Leave the crab pieces as whole as possible – not need to shred.

Make your fresh white breadcrumbs in the food processor. A good white Italian bread is always good for this – but any white bread is fine.

Gently mix the all the above ingredients together in a large bowl except the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and herbs for garnish. Try not to break up the crab pieces.

Crab Oreganata 2

Spray your shells with cooking spray and then fill them with the crab mixture. This can be made in a baking dish if you prefer and spooned out to serve on small plates.

Crab Oreganata 1

Sprinkle some extra breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Then put the shells under the broiler until the tops are golden brown. Watch that you don’t scorch them!

Crab Oreganata 3

Crab Oreganata 4

Drizzle generously with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil – garnish with some fresh oregano and serve!

Your CRAB OREGANATA will be the hit of your next gathering. Serve it with some Prosecco, Champagne, or a lovely Falanghina or Vermentino. Prepare for applause!!



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Calamari and Beans

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Squid and Beans - finish with script

Buon giorno!

Each year at the season of Christmas, Italians everywhere scurry to prepare dishes that will fulfill a spot on their menu of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. In some families, the same dishes are prepared each year. In others, they vary somewhat from year to year. This year, we look at a dish, Florentine in origin, CALAMARI AND BEANS  or as it is sometimes called, Squid and Beans.

Although the Florentines are not on a seacoast, they are no less observant of tradition, and they value dishes of the sea, as if they were a coastal city. CALAMARI AND BEANS is a traditional offering from this area and is just about perfect for any Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. It is simple in its preparation and very easy to create unlike some other dishes of its kind.

In our household – years ago – my parents, Attilio and Loretta divided some of the labor connected with this yearly feast. My father prepared the baked clams and one of the calamari dishes that was especially spicy. My mother carefully sewed the stuffed squid tubes and made the sauce for them along with 2 preparations of Baccala (Baccala Salad and Baccala Soup). They came together on some of the dishes such as the fried smelts and the cannoli shells. It was a meal that took weeks of prep.

This calamari dish takes only a few minutes and is sooo delicious especially served with crusty bread. It is made with the squid rings – easy to cut from the tubes. Some complain about their calamari being tough and chewy. I have never had that issue. Served with a crusty bread, I think you’ll find this dish is a winner!


Serves: about 4

Prep: about 40 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes


1 lb. Squid tubes – cleaned and cut into rings

1 15 0z. Can Cannellini Beans – rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

1 Fennel bulb – cleaned and sliced thinly

1 Medium Onion – sliced thinly

1 Large Can (about 28 0z.) San Marzano Whole Tomatoes – crushed with your hands – better!

3 Tbsp. Chopped fresh Sage

1 Piece of Fresh Orange Peel

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Coarse Salt and fresh black pepper to taste


Clean your squid tubes and cut into rings.

Squid 3

Heat your oil in a pan with the garlic, onion & fennel.

Cook 5 minutes – do not burn garlic. Keep things moving in the pan to coat and so as not to overheat.

Squid 1

Squid 2

Add the squid rings and cook just 5 minutes.

Squid 5

Then add the tomatoes, sage, Orange peel, Red Pepper Flakes, salt & pepper.. I like to crush my tomatoes with my clean hands as this gives them the perfect consistency and doesn’t over process them.

Cook over a moderately high heat to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally. for about 30 minutes.

Squid 6

Squid 7

Add the beans and cook a couple of minutes more until heated through. Remove the orange peel. Check for seasoning and add if needed.

Squid 8

Serve as is with fresh sage or fennel fronds for garnish.

CALAMARI AND BEANS  just screams for crusty bread – So feed the beast and serve it! OOOOO this is good!



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July: Grilled Shrimp and Tuscan Beans

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Gamberoni E Fagioli – 

Grilled Shrimp and Tuscan Beans-2

Buon giorno!

Regarding regional Italian cooking, you can’t get more authentic than Tuscan style beans. These beans are white, often Cannellini, prepared with olive oil, sage or rosemary, a little red pepper flakes and—away we go. They are just that simple. You might think – what’s the big deal? The big deal is that when certain ingredients converge, no matter how simple it sounds, the results can be close to perfection. I’ve said it often, “Italians love their beans!” While that may be true  – the Tuscans revere them! They are most often the side of choice with the famous Florentine grilled steak (Bistecca Alla Fiorentina) – the only way to grill steak in my opinion.

This time, instead, of serving the beans with meat, we are off to the coast for a dinner of fresh catch! The dish we tackle in this post, GRILLED SHRIMP AND TUSCAN BEANS is a special one, not because you spend hours in the kitchen preparing it – because you won’t. Shrimp and Beans—really?? Trust me on this one – it is a dynamite entrée  – made to order for al fresco dining and worthy of fine restaurant dining. However, it just might be the one dish, you’ll want to serve guests and family again and again, especially during the warmer months.

You will not believe how well the shellfish pairs with the beans. The shrimp (the bigger, the better!) are barely cooked – marinated first, and then seared on the grill quickly – a couple of minutes each side. The beans can be the dried variety which you soak overnight, if you want to go to the trouble. Have at it! But – in this case – the canned cannellini beans are just great as long as they are rinsed well and drained. Once they cook for just a few minutes – they become almost creamy tasting.

Along with the creamy beans we’ll add fresh sweet tiny tomatoes which will balance the dish with a little acidity. You won’t believe how perfect this combination of ingredients and flavors can be – not to mention, healthy too. I’m excited just talking about it! I really LOVE this dish!

Sound like one of those “peasant” dishes again? You bet it is – not only in its simplicity – but also in respect to the high regard in this dish given to fresh herbs and mostly fresh ingredients.

I listened to a conversation the other day – where someone said they were trying a dish for the first time with fresh ingredients to see if there was a difference. Really? Do we think it’s actually possible that those herbs that sit in little tin cans in our pantries for months (sometimes years – shudder) taste just like the fresh ones from our gardens and markets? I know the answer to that one – but –  hmmm…I’ll let you be the judge.

Here we go – a peasant dish, with authentic roots, from the heart of Tuscany, all dressed up, with some fresh grilled shrimp. Let ‘s cast our nets and hope for bounty!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes + 2-3 hours to marinate the shrimp

Cook: about 15 minutes


1 1/4 lb. Large fresh shrimp, cleaned with shells removed

  Marinade for Shrimp:

1/3 C. Olive Oil

1 Large Fresh Clove Garlic – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1 Generous squeeze fresh Lemon Juice

1/3 C. Dry White Wine

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste (the salt will bring out the flavor in the marinade)


2  14 oz. Cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 C. Fresh Ripe Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half – Note: these little tomatoes will hold their shape better than large tomatoes in this dish.

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary for garnish



Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Add your shrimp to the bowl and mix well, covering all the shrimp.

Grilled shrimp - marinade 1

Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

When ready to grill – pour off the marinade and grill both sides of shrimp for a couple of minutes each side only. Do not over cook the shrimp. You want them crunchy and juicy – not dry and tough!


Grilled shrimp 2


Make sure to rinse and drain the beans.

Place them in a pot or pan with the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garlic, Rosemary leaves, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.


Grilled shrimp 4

Stir gentle, heating through – about 10 minutes. During this time, the tomatoes will soften.


For each dish, spoon some of the Tuscan Beans on the plate. Place some shrimp on the top and garnish with fresh Rosemary sprigs.

This wonderful GRILLED SHRIMP AND TUSCAN BEANS is just screaming for a crisp dry Falanghina or an Arneis! Now, without missing a beat, hit the patio!


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May: Branzino–Fire Roasted on the Grill!

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Buon giorno!

This is one of those “looks complicated – but  easy slide” dishes that makes you look like the hero/heroine of the patio scene. BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL is a dish you’ll want to eat and serve over and over during the grilling season. What? A whole fish – I can’t do that! O yeah – O yeah – you CAN!

Growing up, I ate a lot of fish from both fresh water and sea. My father, Attilio, was not only an avid and committed fisherman – but he also knew how to cook each and every type of fish he brought home to us.  He cleaned and filleted his fish in seconds with surgical finesse and artistry. He taught me, but I never could master his speed and precision. He often served his fish whole and grilled. Not having access to Branzino, we frequently enjoyed Striped Bass and Bluefish – fresh caught off the beach at Cape Cod during the summers.

So what is Branzino anyway? Branzino (plural – Branzini) is actually referred to as the “sea bass” of the Mediterranean. It was touted as the “fish of the year” in the New York Times for 2012. It is slim and silvery – a beautiful fish really. It used to be that you would see it on the menu as a special entry at only the finest Italian restaurants. Thankfully, it is now available to all of us through our local fish markets in generous supply. It is often served whole. It is meaty and takes the high temperatures of the grill well.


Whole? Really? Uh-huh! The whole Branzino of about a pound to a pound and a quarter is the perfect size for 2. Most fishmongers now carry it. It definitely can be found at Whole Foods.

How to prep this thing? So you have found your Branzino at the market. What now? Ask your fishmonger to scale it, remove fins, gut it, and clean it for you, leaving the head and the tail on. The rest is easy. When you get it home – give it a rinse in and out and pat it dry. That’s it! Now you’re ready to cook it.

The Cookin! Although you could easily bake this fish in the oven, it is sooooo perfect for the grill. It responds quickly to a smokin’ hot fire, cooking through very rapidly, delivering a tasty, tender, white meat. The fun is in the flavoring.

This recipe: I used just a few fresh ingredients for this FIRE ROASTED BRANZINO –  combining fresh garlic, orange, tarragon, fennel, and scallions. To add perfection to perfection, I recommend using your best and favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I used a beautiful Greek Koroneiki Extra Virgin from Virgin California Olive Oil Company.


The result: Your beautiful Branzino cooks in a flash and makes a show stopping presentation served whole at the table. Just reach inside and carefully lift the backbone which pulls out easily. That’s it! This is so easy and quick to prepare, you won’t believe it. You’ll make this easy BRANZINO – part of your grilling repertoire for the coming season.

Fire up the grill!


Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: approx. 10 minutes


1 Whole Branzino (about 1 lb.) (plural – Branzini)

Your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Make it a good one!

Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

2 Garlic Cloves – chopped

1 Fennel Bulb, cleaned and sliced

Fresh Tarragon Sprigs

Several Fresh Orange Slices

Juice of 1/2 Fresh Orange

Chopped Fresh Scallions for garnish


Ask your fishmonger to take the scales off your Branzino, remove the fins, and clean out the inside (gut).

Prepare your grill fire. I recommend soaking and using some wood chips to create good smoke.

Rinse off your fish and pat it dry.

Drizzle the fish inside and out with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Salt and pepper the inside.

Holding the fish open, sprinkle in the garlic and lay some fennel, orange slices, and tarragon sprigs inside as well.

Squeeze the orange inside the fish. Close the fish and drizzle some of the orange on the outside.


Place your stuffed Branzino on a grilling pan with holes or in a grilling basket. Lay the extra fennel and orange slices on the pan also as they will be delicious grilled and charred. Drizzle them also with some of the oil, orange juice, salt and pepper.

When the fire is hot and your wood is smoking – place your grilling pan on the grill and close it.


Roast it for about 6 minutes – turn over and grill for another 6 minutes  on the other side.

Garnish with fresh chopped scallions and orange slices.

Serve your beautiful BRANZINO – FIRE ROASTED ON THE GRILL with a crisp Pinot Grigio!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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