Chicken Agrodolce With Pappardelle

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A Rabbit That Clucks –

Chicken agrodolce finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Trick question: when is a rabbit not a rabbit – but.. a chicken? It is when you enjoy the delectable CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE.

A signature dish of some regions of Italy – coniglio all’agrodolce – is made with rabbit and prepared in several different ways. The rabbit hops a path to tables in Piemonte in the North, the hills of Tuscany, and the forests of Campania. It has now even become a featured dish on the menus of regional Italian restaurants here in the US. It is great “eating” as hunters say, with no game flavor, tender and easy to prepare.

Looking back to our little kitchen in upstate NY, my father, Attilio, “hunter extraordinaire”, made sure our freezer was always full of game. We had all kinds from deer to quail – and also rabbit. It was one of my favorite things, and my father knew how to prepare it with unequalled skill. The way I liked best was “agrodolce” – sour and sweet. It was tender and almost sweet – the kind of flavor that made you lick your fingers. Oh… the sauce. Just before my first child was born my Dad asked me what he could cook for me. It took about 30 seconds for me to tell him that I required one of his amazing rabbit meals. I enjoyed and remembered it like no other. And yes, it resulted in a happy mother, and a very happy child.

In my household today, you probably won’t find one of those rabbit dinners, as there are no willing hunters. Also, we have over the years become so fond of some of our domesticated rabbit friends that it just wouldn’t seem right. What to do?

I have found that rabbit meat and chicken thighs are quite similar in texture, flavor, and are both easily acclimated to one of my favorite cooking techniques – braising. Caution: The fragrance coming from your kitchen will attract the neighbors.This braised dish using the chicken thighs is sure to fool your guests with its similarity to rabbit, and make them yell for more. The meat is unforgettably tender. The sauce has a tiny bit of sweetness which offsets the vinegar in the dish. The sauce is so lovely and aromatic, I can’t emphasize it enough. It is simply perfection with papardelle pasta, as seen here, with gnocchi, and also with the more traditional polenta. Try them all!! OOOOO how I love this dish! Hint at how much you will enjoy this: it ranks as one of “Tom’s Favorites”!

Bunnies have nothing to fear here but the chickens better hide! Chicken thighs are great candidates for several of the Italian regional preparations for rabbit that I happen to love. Here is one of them!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: about 50 minutes


1 lb. Pappardelle Pasta (wide) or gnocchi,or polenta cooked according to package directions

4 Chicken Thighs – boneless and skinless

Flour for dredging

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil +  a little more if needed

3 Oz. Chopped Pancetta

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1 Onion chopped

1 C. Dry Red Wine

1/4 C. Fresh Sage Leaves – chopped

1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tbsp. Sugar

1 C. Chicken Broth or stock

1 Tbsp. Butter


Dredge the chicken thighs on both sides in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Chicken agrodolce 1

Heat butter and oil in pan and brown both sides of the chicken pieces and remove them to a platter.

Chicken agrodolce 2

Add a little more oil if your pan is dry. Then add the pancetta, garlic, and onion. Cook at medium high for about 3 minutes.

Chicken agrodolce 3

Then add the wine and the sage and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Chicken agrodolce 4

Next add the vinegar, sugar, and chicken broth to the pan. Stir in.Turn chicken pieces so they are coated with the sauce.

Chicken agrodolce 5 - with stock added

Now cover the pan and let simmer for about 40 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over once during cooking to make sure the chicken is well coated with sauce.

Remove the chicken pieces to a platter again and cut them into small strips.

Continue to simmer the sauce to reduce slightly for just a minute or 2.

Then strain the sauce into a sauce pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Just heat through.

Add the chicken pieces back to the sauce and pour over the noodles, gnocchi, or polenta – whichever you decide to use.

Garnish with whole sage leaves, and serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese.

Serve your CHICKEN AGRODOLCE WITH PAPPARDELLE with your favorite Chianti Classico or Montepulciano di Abruzzo. Prepare to be dazzled!


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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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Pasta Con Cipolle

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Pasta Con Cipolle finish with script

Buon giorno!

Pasta with onions – so what’s the big deal? Onions – who likes onions? Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all. For the non-believers, you are really missing something. For those who want to come along for the ride – you are in for a major treat and a winning dish. PASTA CON CIPOLLE  or Pasta With Onions is one of the most flavorful and enjoyable pasta dishes I know. Trust me on this one. It’s something special.

Although, this is a good Lenten dish, it is also a beautiful light pasta dish to serve in the spring and summer months – out on the patio perhaps. It is a bit of a surprise. It appears to be so simple and yet has a richness that is both memorable and satisfying. The onions caramelize to give the pasta a deep buttery flavor that is most unexpected and welcome.

And, of course, I should mention that it is one of “Tom’s favorites!” That’s the hubster, for those who may not know, and he really loves this one.


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 18-20 minutes


1 lb. Pasta cooked according to package directions ( I like spaghetti for this dish)

3 Large Sweet Onions – sliced thinly

1/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil + extra for a finishing drizzle (The Extra Virgin adds flavor.)

3/4 C. Chicken Broth (Vegetable broth can be used if preferred)

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/2 C. Sliced Olives (Regular Black or Kalamata)

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste (lots of pepper!)

Fresh Basil chopped for garnish

Plenty of grated cheese to serve


Cook the sliced onions in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium high heat about 6 minutes.

Pasta Con Cipolle 1

Add the broth and red pepper flakes and cook about 10 minutes more until the onions are tender and golden in color.

Pasta Con Cipolle 2

Add the butter and melt in.

Pasta Con Cipolle 3

Add the olives and cook a minute more.

Pasta Con Cipolle 4

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

Pour the sauce over your pasta and toss well.

Finish with a good drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Garnish your PASTA CON CIPOLLE with fresh basil and serve with plenty of grated cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, or even Pecorino are all good with this.



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March: Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

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Cousin Bebe’s Ricotta Gnocchi-

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce - finish 1 with script

   Buon giorno!

I have this Cousin Bebe, who is an amazing mother, wife, and friend. She also cooks like a dream and is into hunting for the very best ingredients. You can already tell that we are sympatico in the ingredients department. Although – I must admit that she would walk farther for good baking chocolate than I would! Mostly, I love her because she makes me laugh on a regular basis – for that alone I would be ever grateful!

During one of our marathon conversations recently, she shared a dish with me that she loves with ricotta gnocchi and mushrooms that really sparked my interest. She said that a chef- friend of hers turned her on to it, and she was passing the idea on to me. I loved the idea immediately and ran with it! I tweaked it a little adding my own twist here and there, and my version of RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOMS was born. Bebe will find many changes to the original recipe. I hope she enjoys the new “take” on this dish!

About 5 star dishes at our house: I have a tough crowd in my kitchen with not only me critiquing dishes, but also my family. My husband, who has gained a more discerning palate over time, has ranked this dish among his “5 star” picks! He just loves it. It was kind of surprising, as he is not a big gnocchi fan – but these gnocchi changed all that. He simply loves this!

Some thoughts on this dish: It can be vegetarian although chicken broth is called for in my recipe. Change to vegetable broth if you like. I prefer the chicken – but no harm – no foul. One suggestion is that I like the gnocchi ingredients to be room temperature before making them. Also – and the Italians from birth in the crowd can appreciate this distinction – often gnocchi are fashioned ,after cutting, into “cavatelli- like” shapes by using the two finger method. In this case, I stop after cutting, leaving them in the little pillow shapes. I just like them that way in this dish – a better visual – and I think they remain light, not acquiring more flour. I find than Ricotta Gnocchi are a little lighter than potato, and weighting them down with more flour does them an injustice, I think. Believe me on this one – you can’t mess these up!

About the mushrooms: It is no surprise that I elected to use Wild Mushrooms for the sauce, as I run with any opportunity to use them. It is a love affair with me and these wild ones as many of you know having followed my recipes. I roast them first to give them a deeper flavor and added a surprise ingredient – a little Balsamic Vinegar before roasting which is subtly detectable in the finished sauce and offers another level of flavor that is only achieved by the caramelization. This addition makes the difference between just a mushroom sauce and one that immediately piques interest when it hits the palate.


I think of this dish as in the Northern Italian style, especially with the use of butter and mascarpone as the cooks of the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia might suggest. In Lombardia, they would probably use the wonderful Porcini mushrooms, plentiful in the lake area.

This dish requires a little time in the making of the gnocchi. The sauce – on the other hand – comes together quickly.

The gnocchi may be made ahead and frozen by spreading them out on a sheet pan – freezing them in a single layer. Then you can transfer them, once frozen, to a ziploc bag until ready to cook. Do not defrost before cooking. Drop them into the boiling water straight from the freezer.

My enthusiasm for this dish runneth over!! These gnocchi simply rock! I can’t wait for you to try them!


Serves: 4

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes


2 Cups Flour +  Flour for the board

2 Large Eggs

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese – Whole Milk please


You can start the old fashioned way by pouring the flour onto a board – making a well and placing the eggs and ricotta in the middle. Proceed by mixing the dough with clean hands.



It is much faster and easier to put the flour, eggs, and ricotta into your food processor and with a few turns, the dough comes together almost immediately! It will be sticky. Put some flour on your hands and place some flour on your board or surface. Take some of the dough out of the processor bowl with your floured hands – make a ball and roll into a 1/2-3/4 inch thick rope on your floured surface.


With a sharp knife, cut the rope into small 3/4 inch sections or “pillows”. (They will look like little pillow shapes)

finished gnocchi

Continue with all of the balls until you use all the dough. Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour. (I like the gnocchi for this dish to remain in pillow shape. Often we roll the pillows each more time through flour with two fingers to roll them or over the tines of a fork. If you prefer to do this you can.)

You can make the gnocchi ahead and freeze them which makes this a very easy dish to prepare for guests. To freeze: lay the gnocchi in a single layer on a sheet and put them into the freezer. When frozen, put the gnocchi in a ziploc bag, seal and place in freezer until ready to use them. Do NOT defrost them before using.

Drop the gnocchi into rapidly boiling water (straight from the freezer if frozen). I like to boil them in 1/3’s giving them a stir after dropping them in. Remove them to a serving dish when they rise to float at the top of the water – about 3-4 minutes. Very quick!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20-25 minutes total


1 lb. Assorted cleaned wild mushrooms of your choosing (Regular button mushrooms can be used, but the wild ones offer a more earthy flavor to the dish.)

Olive oil to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder  – Optional (sometimes hard to find)

3/4 C. Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

3/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/3 Cup Mascarpone Cheese (optional)

Grated Asiago Cheese to serve


Spread the cleaned mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and then follow with a light drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 4

Remove from oven – slice or leave whole and set them aside along with any juices that flowed during roasting.

Put olive oil and butter in a large fry pan, melting the butter.

Add the mushrooms, juices, garlic, rosemary, porcini powder if using, wine, and broth to the pan. At medium high heat, rapidly bubble for 6-8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced down to 1/2 and slightly concentrated. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 5

Turn off the heat. At this point, if you are using the mascarpone,which I recommend because the sauce becomes so velvety and rich – add it, stirring, and melting into the hot sauce. If you choose not to use the mascarpone – the sauce is still lovely though not as rich.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 6

Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the cooked gnocchi. Garnish with a little Rosemary and serve with grated Asiago.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE is such a beautiful dish to serve.It is one of those dishes you dream about later. Yeah, it’s THAT good! Although the preparation is simple, the flavors are complex. I have to agree with my husband when he says “this is a 5 star dish!”



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Pasta with Swiss Chard

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Eat your greens!

Penne Swiss Chard

Buon giorno!

I don’t know how many times my mother, Loretta, would tell me “Eat your greens” – when I was growing up. Greens were a staple in our house. We had them all sorts of ways and most of them – sadly, I hated until I matured and grew a “palate”! However, one of those greens, Swiss Chard, always passed the taste test with me. Swiss chard is sweeter than most greens and can be used for — well – everything. Here, I offer PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD, which will more than surprise you in flavor and enjoyment, while at the same time presenting a healthy choice for dining.

My mother used to make a lovely concoction of Swiss Chard and tomatoes and served it over rice – which, by the way, she strangely preferred to pasta. Whenever she cooked it, I cheered, as I loved it so much. No meat – but amazingly satisfying anyway.

I suppose you could throw some meat into PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD – but you don’t really need it. The greens and tomatoes do all the work here, and trust me on this one – you carnivores won’t miss it. This is a light pasta dish – but no one goes home hungry – and yes – a perfect dish for a meal on the patio! Almost any pasta will do. If you prefer something long and stringy – go for the spaghetti types. I like a chunkier pasta with this – a penne, ziti, rigatoni –or even tortelloni – yum!

Italians and greens: Italians have had a long love affair with greens. From the noted “peasant dishes” harvested from individual family gardens to the more complex stuffed and creative items of  haute cuisine, Italians have incorporated them in their cooking for centuries. They eat them as sides – they make pasta with them – they use them in soups and on and on. It can be said that greens are one of the most common of staples found at the Italian table.

About Swiss Chard: For those unfamiliar, Swiss Chard is a green vegetable sold in bunches. You’ll find it with green veins, red, veins, or “rainbow” veins and stalks (red and yellow). They are very pretty to cook with. You can use any of these varieties for this recipe.

Rainbow-Chard-2a_thumb (1)

Working with Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard is so easy to use. It doesn’t need much prep. First, you should always clean it by rinsing or soaking in water – then draining. The chard is usually sandy so you’ll need to do the rinsing. It takes just a couple of minutes. I like to lay it out on paper towels to dry if I’m not using it immediately. You can use just the leaves, if you like. You simply tear them off the stalks into pieces. If you want to use the stems – they are quite tasty and can be chopped and used along with the leaves. Your choice. OR – you can tear the leaves off and use them alone.


Looking for something quick and easy? This is your huckleberry!

So in honor of every time you heard “eat your greens” growing up – let’s eat as the Italians do, and dive into a healthy and incredibly delectable pasta experience!


Makes: enough for a pound of pasta

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: About 25 minutes


1 lb. Pasta cooked according to taste – I prefer a chunky variety like ziti, penne, rigatoni, tortelloni

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Large Clove garlic – chopped finely

1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard – green, red veined, or rainbow (yellow and red) – cleaned – chop stalks, if using and tear the leaves into pieces

3 C. Chopped tomatoes – 2 14 oz. Cans or 1 28 oz. Can works. If tomatoes are whole – chop them or pull them apart with your hands!

Piece of rind of any delicious Italian cheese if you have one – adds soooo much flavor

1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Some Fresh Parsley – chopped

Grated cheese for serving – your choice of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano suggested


Clean your chard by soaking or rinsing and draining.

Chop your Swiss Chard as explained above in the ingredients section.

Place the olive oil in a large pan and add the garlic. Cook over medium heat for just a minute – do not brown or burn.

Add the Swiss Chard, tomatoes, rind, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Swiss Chard

Simmer at medium high until most of the liquid has cooked off, turning occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes. You should have a thick and concentrated sauce with the greens left.

Toss with the pasta.

Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano.

Just want to share that my husband is one of those carnivores who thinks meat is necessary in every dish. This PASTA WITH SWISS CHARD is hands down one of his favorite dishes.. and he never misses the meat!


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June: Salted Caramel Gelato with Bourbon Hazelnut Swirl

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Salted Caramel Gelato A  2

Buon giorno!

 OK – just go ahead and tell me you’re not interested in THIS one! SALTED CARAMEL WITH BOURBON HAZELNUT SWIRL!

Ohhhhhh yes! It is gelato season again. Be still my heart! Of all the desserts ever made or conjured up in the greatest of culinary minds – gelato is the one for me! I truly look forward to cranking the ice cream machine up for a new season of frozen delights.

My family is aware of my special affection  – really an addiction to all things titled “Salted Caramel”. This one in particular has me in a spin – I was so excited about it that I thought it would make a perfect “Recipe of the Month” and kick-off to the new summer season on the patio. It is my new favorite new flavor and definitely rates the moniker, “Flavor of the Month”.

The idea came to me recently when my son sent me a temptation laden gift of Salted Bourbon Caramels. Now, I thought I had experienced every combination of all things Salted Caramel until I enjoyed these. The BOURBON – WOW – what an addition. I thought – wouldn’t it be fun to add it in some way to a Salted Caramel Gelato? BINGO! SALTED CARAMEL GELATO WITH BOURBON HAZELNUT SWIRL was born!

I am all a-flutter over this one. If this isn’t the gelato of the season, I’ll…well… I’ll eat it all myself!!

This gelato has the Salted Caramel flavor with something more. That addition of the Bourbon Hazelnut swirl using Nutella kicks it into the Italian stratosphere. Oh my the combo! If you have a Bourbon sensitivity, you can omit it  -but  it is really a wonderful pairing of flavors with the salted caramel.

You will love this one, as it really packs a wallop of flavor. It is amazing! If I haven’t said it yet…Troppo Bella!


Makes: about a quart

Prep: about 30 minutes + process time in the ice cream maker


2 C. Whole Milk

1 C. Heavy Cream

8 Egg Yolks

1 C. Sugar

2 Tbsp. Water

1 Tsp. Kosher Salt

4 Tbsp. Nutella

3 Tbsp. Bourbon (optional if sensitive to it)


Beat egg yolks like you would for egg nog until they are very light and almost batter-like.

Salted Car. Gelato.jpg 2

Heat milk and cream until just bubbly on the sides. Let it sit a minute or two.

Salted Car. Gelato 5

Then mix the milk and cream to the beaten yolks – just a little at first to raise the temperature of the yolks. Then stirring constantly, add in the rest of the milk gradually.

Add the mixture back to the pot used for the milk and cream.

In another pot, melt the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. and is melted. Stir frequently.

Salted Car. Gelato 4

Turn up the heat and cook until the sugar begins to turn an amber color. Add it to the egg/milk mixture. BE VERY CAREFUL and do this gradually as it may spatter.

Cook this over low- medium until it coats the back of the spoon – stirring all the while. You are really making a custard here. You must keep stirring and watch that it doesn’t curdle. As soon as it coats the spoon – turn off the heat.

Salted Car. Gelato 6

Some like to strain out the solids – I almost never do!

Chill this base over night.

Just before putting this mixture in your ice cream maker – add the salt and stir in.

Add to your ice cream maker and make the gelato according to your instructions for your individual machine.

Salted Car. Gelato.jpg 7

gelato - salted caramel

While this is processing in the machine, make the Hazelnut Swirl mixing the Bourbon and Nutella.

Bourbon Nutella swirl

When the gelato is finished – quickly and GENTLY fold the swirl into the gelato. This does not take much folding. You just want to fold a few times. Do not over mix or you won’t get a nice swirl.

gelato - salted caramel. 3gelato - salted caramel.

Freeze in your freezer immediately and serve when it reaches the frozen state that you like.

Salted Caramel Gelato A



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Spaghetti Carbonara

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An Afternoon With the Godfather – 


Buon giorno!

Some of our memories are so perfect and vivid that they never fade. This is one of them, and I will share it with you. It is a tale that includes one of the most heavenly of Italian pasta dishes, SPAGHETTI CARBONARA. This dish supposedly hails from the region of Lazio, native to my mother, Loretta’s family. It is, like many from Italy, simple, and made from just a few well chosen and very good ingredients. Its origins are said to have been with a carbonai or charcoal maker who may have been the first to make it – thus the name Carbonara.  The simple ingredients include olive oil, onion, bacon (or pancetta or guanciale), Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, black pepper, salt,and egg yolks. Sound easy enough? Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. The key is the use of the best of each ingredient you can find. Note that I did not mention cream! This is an item added by some restaurants and recipes who attempt to over complicate the dish, and it is not an authentic addition. The egg yolks give the dish its creamy nature and golden color, and the miracle of the dish is in the TIMING! Putting this dish together quickly and while ingredients are hot is key to a successful result.

Now for the story! Godfathers are very special to Italians. They play an active role and are usually revered by the family. I am not referring to the godfathers of movie fame – all “mobbed up” and with a darker persona. Instead, I refer to the highly valued godfathers who play a special role  in the lives of Italian children as they grow and are truly a part of the family – the kind who watch over and gently guide. They stand ready to noticeably approve when you have done well – who encourage  – who nudge with kindness – and help when it is needed. That is the kind of godfather I had. He was almost a larger than life figure to me when I was very young – attractive, robust, generous of spirit, and always fun to be around. He was my father’s closest friend. Every Sunday, after mass at the Italian church, our families came together for breakfast. His name was Nick Corbisello – sometimes called N.R. – I affectionately called him “Compare Nick”. Compare (Sometimes pronounced Gumbah in Neapolitan dialect) is not directly translatable and can mean friend or family friend. Any true Southern Italian will know this term.

Shortly after I became engaged to be married, I visited Compare Nick, to introduce my future husband, hoping to gain his approval  – a tall order, as my fiance was NOT Italian! We had high hopes that he would pass inspection, but had nothing to fear as my godfather’s way was almost always approving and kind. On the day of this visit, Compare Nick’s cousin, young , handsome Aniello, who was on an extended visit from Italy, happened to be there. What good fortune for us, as the charming Aniello was a gifted cook, and it was lunchtime.While we sat at the kitchen table and shared a good bit of laughter and endless stories, Aniello effortlessly put together a lunch for us that my husband and I have never forgotten. It was the first time we had ever tasted SPAGHETTI CARBONARA. I watched him as he made the dish with a few simple ingredients. He used bacon instead of pancetta, as that was what was available in the refrigerator. I generally still use it for the dish, as that is the way it was first served to me. He served it in individual portions with an egg yolk at the side of each serving , so that each person could toss the spaghetti with a “personal yolk.”It was an amazing dish, golden in color, aromatic, and flavorful beyond almost anything I had ever tasted. That was 40 years ago, and it is still my husband’s favorite pasta dish. Fortunately, I watched Aniello carefully as he prepared it, so that through the years, I was able to prepare it in a similar way.

Recently, Compare Nick’s grandson, Nick Cerretani, was kind enough to put me in touch with Aniello’s daughter, the beautiful Susy, who kindly asked her father, living in Casamarciano, Italy, to confirm the original recipe, just to be sure. It was great to re-connect with Aniello after all these years through Susy. He remarkably remembered the now “famous” afternoon at Compare Nick’s where this splendid dish was first introduced to me and graciously shared his preparation for this blog post. Happily, Aniello still is a remarkable cook, and according to Nick ,grows most of his own vegetables, using and enjoying them in Napoletana style dishes. Some wonderful things just do not change!

I am grateful to Nick, Susy, and especially dear Aniello for still remembering that very special afternoon with my godfather and for sharing his cooking secrets with me.


Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes


1 lb. Spaghetti (cooked according to package directions)

1/3 lb. Bacon, Pancetta, or Guanciale (use more if you like) –For the very best bacon, I always recommend ordering from: Circle B Ranch !

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion coarsely chopped or sliced thinly (Aniello likes to use 1/2 an onion)

4 Egg yolks

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Pecorino Romano Cheese – grated

Lots of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Salt to taste

A little fresh parsley for garnish

More grated cheese to serve with the spaghetti at the table


Fry the bacon in one pan. Chop the bacon after cooking – leaving it all in the drippings

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In another pan, fry the onions in the olive oil until tender.

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Separate four egg yolks and reserve.

Eggs carbonara

As soon as spaghetti is ready, mix the cooked bacon, drippings, cooked onion and oil, and the egg yolks in with it quickly while hot. Toss well.

Add the grated cheese, plenty of fresh pepper, and salt.

Add some fresh chopped parsley for garnish.

Serve with extra grated cheese.


There you have it: SPAGHETTI CARBONARA – simple and beautiful, as suggested by Aniello Restaino from Casamarciano, Italy (in Campania near Napoli). Grazie, Aniello!


Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.



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Tom enjoying "street pizza" in Little Italy, New York City

Since 1973, Linda’s husband, Tom, has been Linda’s biggest fan and greatest critic. An avid cyclist, he loves the Carbs! Here he shares his current list of favorites:

Tom’s Bada Bing Bada Boom

Spaghetti Carbonara

Pizza with Arugula, Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Spiedies ( an upstate New York/Italian specialty)

Bracco Amarone

Orecchiette with Shrimp and Peas

Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with Linda’s Tomato Composta

Linguine with Calamari Sauce

Pasta e Fagioli

Linda’s Limoncello Cake

So what’s a “Tom’s Bada Bing Bada Boom?”

3 oz. Grey Goose Vodka – chilled a few hours in the freezer
A Quick Mention of Vermouth – whispered preferably
LOTS of crushed ice
2 of the largest Green Olives, you can find, rinsed and stuffed with Gorgonzola Piccante –  then skewered on toothpick

Makes One Drink

Chill martini glasses in freezer a couple of hours before using.
Pour vodka into cocktail shaker filled with crushed ice. SHAKE! SHAKE! SHAKE! COLD!COLD! COLD!
Re: Vermouth – Tom thinks setting the bottle of Vermouth next to the cocktail shaker is more than the attention it deserves. Strain into chilled glasses letting just a few of the slivered ice chips slip through. Pop in the skewered olives with Gorgonzola.

Enjoyed best by Tom al fresco on the patio!

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