Burgers Italian Style With Tomato Pesto

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Italian burger-pesto07

Buon giorno!

Burgers are definitely an American standard when it comes to summer grilling. BUT – at our house, the burgers were Italian Style all the way. When I was growing up, we enjoyed grilled burgers frequently, but they were much different from the burgers of the other neighborhood cookouts. My mother, Loretta, never made anything “just plain”, and that included our burgers. The burgers of my youth were spicy and chock full of Italian herbs, grated Italian cheese, chopped garlic etc. – In other words, they tasted much like my mother’s meatballs. They were really tasty and never “just plain meat”. My BURGERS ITALIAN STYLE WITH TOMATO PESTO are not Loretta’s version, but like hers – there is nothing plain about them. In fact, the Burger Snoots around my house like them so much, it’s hard to get anyone to eat a plain burger any more.

When you think about it, a pile of ground meat squashed into a patty isn’t very interesting on its own. But – dress it up a little  – maybe show a little cleavage without going beyond the bounds of good taste – give it some spice without “tarting” it up too much? Stay classy, babe, and you’ve got yourself a very competitive little number on a bun that no one can turn down. The cool thing is that you don’t really have to work very hard to achieve this. Take good ground chuck that contains about 20% fat, add a few select ingredients, and your “just plain” burgers will transform. You will own your family and guests with these flavor packed “burger bombs”.

Hey – you can even make them ahead and freeze them if you like. I MUST ALWAYS have some hanging around my freezer for that special moment when I’m having a burger craving. We’re thinking Italian here, with the ingredients, for sure, but I am also suggesting an amazing topping of TOMATO PESTO. Now, you didn’t think I was going to let you put ketchup on these power bundles – did you?

Fire up the grill – here we go!


Makes: about 4-5 burgers

Prep: 10 minutes


1 lb. Ground Beef Chuck – preferably with about 20% fat

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

3 oz. Feta or Goat Cheese broken into pieces – not too small

1/4 C. Fresh Basil Leaves – chopped

1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

4 oz. (about 1/2 c.) Sundried Tomatoes, packed in oil – cut into small strips or julienne

1 beaten egg 


Mix all of the above ingredients together.

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Form patties of your desired size.

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Freeze or take them straight to the hot grill.

Tip: Try grilling your buns – They are so much better that way.

Top with Tomato Pesto!


Makes: about 1- 1 1/4 c.

Prep: 10 minutes


3 Ripe Medium Plum Tomatoes – (approx. 9 oz.)

1 Fresh Garlic clove

3/4 c. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/4 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Coarsely chop tomatoes and garlic and add to blender.

Add the basil, mayonnaise, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and Parmigiano to the blender.

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Blend and, at the same time, slowly drizzle in olive oil.

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Make up some BURGERS ITALIAN STYLE WITH TOMATO PESTO  for this weekend. You’re gonna love ‘em!


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June: Risotto With Fresh Clams

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Clams Amalfi Style-

Clams Risotto16

Buon giorno!

The summer season is upon us and what better way to celebrate than with shellfish – more specifically CLAMS! But here’s a new twist on an old theme – RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS! I like to call it Clams Amalfi Style. Everyone knows the classic Linguine Alle Vongole. This is a little different.

The sea-scented broth created by the clams offers a beautiful base for risotto just as it does for spaghetti or linguine. The flavor is almost intoxicating, and the colors in this dish are bright and vivid. Close your eyes and breathe in the aroma, letting your senses float to the Amalfi Coast. One can only imagine dining on the day’s catch among the famous lemon trees of the region, as the breezes drift in from the sea. Ahhhhh…

Wake up!! Attenzione! It’s time to give some attention to the distinctive elements this dish will bring to your table.The interesting thing about this particular preparation is that the recipe offers you two different uses for the same dish! The first is obvious – a delicious risotto and clams as an entrée presentation. The second is a stand alone appetizer or even main course using the clams alone, served with a crusty bread for dunking in the broth and served without the risotto. You often see mussels served this way, but not as often clams. They are delicious, attractive, and truly a gift from the sea.

An added benefit: Clams are very high in iron and can be a good source of this mineral in your diet. Healthy and delicious? You can’t lose!

The goods: For this recipe, I like to use a sweet tomato like the grape tomato. You can also use Campari Tomatoes. The grape variety is especially sweet and blends well with the briny nature of the clam juices. Plan to cook your clams first, as you’ll want to use some of the broth to make your risotto. Also plan on about 8-9 clams per person when making this with risotto and about a dozen per person when serving the clams alone. I like the addition of the sliced fennel in this and the touch of the optional Sambuca or Pernod. This gives the dish a slight hint of Provence or a Mediterranean stew.

Guarantee: You will love this so much – you’ll be making it with and without the risotto all summer long. There is nothing better than taking a steaming pot of the clams outdoors on a warm summer night to enjoy with your favorite white wine. Join me soon On the Patio for a pot of these lovelies and a crisp Falanghina!


(Risotto Alle Vongole)

FIRST: the clams!

Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: About 10 minutes


4 Tbsp. Butter

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Bulbs Sliced Fennel + 2 Fennel Fronds ( the fuzzy green stuff attached to the bulb) – for a quick lesson on slicing fennel click: HEREon my Roast Chicken post.

5 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

2 c. Fresh Grape Tomatoes – sliced in halves

1 c. Dry White Wine

Pinch of Saffron dissolved in the white wine

1 tsp. Sambuca or Pernod (optional)

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

3 Dozen Fresh Clams (Cherrystone is a good one here)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and pepper as needed

1 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling before serving


Important – scrub your clams with a brush before using.

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Cook the garlic and fennel for a couple of minutes in the butter and oil. Then add the tomatoes. Cook about 5-6 minutes.

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Add the sliced tomatoes and cook covered for about 5 minutes at med. high.

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Add the white wine with the saffron threads dissolved in it and Sambuca or Pernod (if using) Don’t worry if saffron does not completely dissolve.

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Cook about 4 minutes letting the wine cook down and the tomatoes release their juices.

Add the pepper flakes and herbs. Stir.

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Season with Salt and Pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Add the clams – give a light stir.

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Add the fennel fronds –  then cover to cook on medium high for 10 minutes.

Clams should all open – discard any that do not.

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Add the lemon now.

Taste for seasoning.

Your clams are now finished – you can enjoy them as is, or reserve them for the risotto. If serving  the clams alone, add a crusty loaf for dunking!

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Before serving – drizzle with a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

SECOND:  the risotto!

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: About 40 minutes


3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 c. Arborio Rice

1 Chopped Onion

1/2 c. Dry White Wine

1 c. Fresh Peas – if in season – if not, frozen is OK

4 c. Chicken broth – warm (keep a little extra handy in case you need it)

1/2 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese – grated (Montasio is also lovely in this)

2 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Basil for garnish


Keep chicken broth warm for adding to the risotto so that you don’t reduce the temperature of the risotto as you cook it.

Cook onion in butter and oil about 5 minutes.

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Add the rice and cook another 5 minutes, tossing and coating with the oil and butter.

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Add the wine and cook down a little.

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Add the fresh or frozen peas.

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Begin adding the warm chicken broth a ladle at a time. Let the rice absorb the liquid as you stir constantly, before adding the next ladle. Repeat this until the broth is incorporated. Alternate with some of the liquid from the clams – remember to stir.

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When the risotto is tender to the bite, add the butter and stir in as it melts. Then add the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let it rest a couple of minutes.

Spoon the cooked clams with the tomatoes and fennel over the risotto along with remaining juices. You can also do this with individual servings, if you like.

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Top with a drizzle of a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh Basil.

RISOTTO WITH FRESH CLAMS is a beautiful “Amalfi Style” dish that you will be proud to serve as well as happy to eat. It is a perfect dish for summer enjoyment and is the ideal choice, I think, for Recipe of the Month for June. You’ll want to try them both with and without the risotto, and when you do, listen for “Come Back to Sorrento” as you enjoy this aromatic delicacy from the sea.


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It’s Chic to Cheek: Pork Cheeks with Butternut Squash

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Pork Cheeks_07

Buon giorno!

 It’s a fact! You either love pork or you don’t. When you do, it’s an “all in” kind of thing. You love every part and dish that is offered. For today’s recipe, we’re talking  about a “cheeky” kind of affection for sure. It is less common, and some might say “it’s out there”. Actually PORK CHEEKS are not really uncommon, and can be found on many of the new and considered trendy menus in some of the finest restaurants. Instead of serving them with the perfunctory pasta or risotto, I like them on a bed of roasted butternut squash. They are slow cooked and melt in your mouth delicious. Yes, today, we are steppin’ out with PORK CHEEKS AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH.

The pork cheek is also referred to as pork jowl. It is not a particularly expensive cut of pork. In fact, it is comparatively cheap. If you can’t find them, ask your butcher. When slowly cooked and flavored well they bring forth the most tender meat and can be served with their sauce over pasta, risotto, mashed potatoes, or almost anything. I particularly like them on a little bed of roasted butternut squash, as you see in the photo. The sauce for this recipe is so rich and delicious. Combined with the rub on the meat, this sauce offers a deep rich taste experience only enhanced by the huge jolt of pork flavor from the cheeks. This is one of those long cooking recipes just made for the slow cooker or crockpot. I suggest 8 hrs on low for this, if that is the way you prefer to go.

Guanciale: You may be familiar with the amazing Guanciale  – the renowned unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork cheeks and revered for it’s amazing flavor. The more familiar pancetta is much easier to find and slightly milder. However, when Guanciale is available – this is definitely the way to go for use in the familiar Italian dishes: Pasta All’Amatriciana and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. It is even named for this cut of pork – coming from the Italian word guancia meaning cheek!

The most satisfying pork cheeks or jowls that I have found come from Circle B Ranch Pork.  You can order all the pork you can eat from their website. The PORK CHEEKS used in this demonstration came from this source.

About Circle B Ranch in their words:

“Circle B Ranch – Your Source for Natural Berkshire Pork from the Ozarks

Nestled in the gently rolling hills and woodlands of the southwest Missouri Ozarks, our 90 acre pork farm is conveniently located in the town of Seymour, MO, just 32 miles east of Springfield, MO.

Circle B Ranch provides a safe, all-natural home to breed, farrow and raise 100% Heritage Pork which includes Berkshire/Kurabota and Red Wattle. Our hog farm is run naturally, sustainably and humanely.”

About Circle B Ranch Pork in my words: This pork is by far the best quality I have ever tasted and cooked with. I have tried several of their cuts, and they do not disappoint. The meat is fresh, full of flavor, and gives me some peace of mind about the way the animals are raised. This is important for our own consumption when you read more and more about the antibiotics and hormones that are fed to the animals in our meat supply. In addition, I just like the idea of critters running freely to graze about in the pastures and woods as they were meant to rather than having a life of confinement.

Marina and John Backes, owners of Circle B Ranch, know all about this and are committed to the idea that the way animals live, eat, and are raised has a great effect on the quality and appearance of their meat.

The end result is most tender flavorful meat that more than satisfies the palate.



Serves: 2

Prep: 15-20 minutes

Refrig: 2 hours

Cook: 2 1/2-3 Hours


Generous Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

2 Pork Cheeks ( about 2 lb. ea.) trimmed of the extra thick fat layer

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

8 baby Carrots chopped

1 Stalk Celery chopped

1 Whole Onion chopped

3 Cloves fresh garlic

3 c. Red Wine

3 c. Beef Broth

2 Bay Leaves

4 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme

1 Tbsp. fresh Tarragon – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Marjoram Leaves – chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Large Fresh Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped


Cut the thick fat layer off the pork cheeks with a sharp knife or ask your butcher to do it. Discard the fat layer. (See fat layer on left in photo)

Pork Cheeks_01

Make a rub of: a pinch of Cayenne Pepper, 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar, Salt and Black Pepper. Mix and rub all over the pork cheeks. Refrigerate the cheeks for 2 hours.

Brown the cheeks in the olive oil on both sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.

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In the same pot, cook the chopped vegetables a few minutes to get started. (If using a slow cooker, now is the time to transfer the vegetables to it and proceed with the following instructions from there – Low and slow for about 8 hours)

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Add the meat back to the pan on top of the vegetables.

Add the wine, stock, and herbs to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Cover and cook 2 1/2-3 hours on top of the stove until “falling apart tender”. At the 1 1/2 hour mark turn the cheeks over. During the cooking process, if you find you need more liquid, add more broth.

When finished, remove the Bay Leaves and Thyme sprigs.

Depending on your taste, you can serve them whole or remove the little meaty medallions and perch them on a bed of whatever you choose like they do in the restaurants. (See first photo) You can also slice them and serve them that way.  See here:

Pork Cheeks_08

If serving with Butternut Squash, toss the chopped squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees about 30 minutes or more until it reaches desired tenderness.

Prepare to dine on the most tender and possibly the most divinely flavorful meat you have ever tasted! It’s time to go for that beautiful Barbaresco you have wanted to try. Yes indeed – it is!


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May: Stuffed Baby Artichokes

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Carciofi in the Style of Venezia Giulia –


Buon giorno!

Whoopee for Spring, a great season for veggies! So many new seasonal vegetables hit the markets during this time, with all of us getting excited about finding ways to serve them. Spring is definitely the time that we see artichokes entering the market scene. It’s funny though that people are often hesitant to cook with them. Either they don’t know how or they think it might be a lot of work.  Artichokes are not difficult to cook, but they do take a little time. Baby artichokes, however, which make their entrance to most markets in April, are much easier to deal with. In fact, baby artichokes are one of the most wonderful works of spring nature. They have all of the flavor and interest of a regular artichoke without the work! Troppo Bella!

Thus, it makes sense to discuss preparing an Italian favorite – Stuffed Baby Artichokes! This is a dish that some credit to the northern-most region of Friuli – Venezia Guilia which shares a border with Austria and partly nestles in the Carnic and Julian Alps. It is a tiny region rich in ancient Roman history with many ruins to prove it.

However, it is also a dish that can be found in many of the other regions of Italy with slight changes to the stuffing ingredients. In fact, it is one of my favorite dishes that my mother, Loretta, whose family came from Minturno, made. She used the regular sized artichokes. When using these, you must remove some of the tough outer leaves and also remove the nasty little “choke” inside before stuffing. Each whole one can make an entire meal for one person! If you use the big ones, make more stuffing, and cook them up to an hour until tender.

The great thing about the “babies” is that there is no choke to remove.  These are so easy and quick to prepare that you just won’t believe it.

(For more great recipes with Baby Artichokes try these posts: Spaghetti With Salmon, Baby Artichokes, and Tomatoes and Baby Artichokes Stuffed With Ricotta.)


Serves: 6 as a side dish (2 apiece)

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 30-40 minutes



12 Baby Artichokes

Juice of one fresh lemon for soaking

2 c. fresh breadcrumbs (Preferably Italian bread)

2 Chopped Anchovies

2 Cloves fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2 C. Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

2 Tsp. Fresh Lemon Zest

2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

3 Tbsp. Capers

3 Tbsp. Pignolis (pine nuts)

4 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (grated)

5 Tbsp. Olive Oil (this is the binder)

Salt and Pepper to taste


1 c. Olive oil

1 1/2 C. White wine or water or combination of the two


Extra grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano to sprinkle on top of each artichoke

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzle


(If using regular sized artichokes, plan to make more stuffing and cook them longer – about an hour or until the leaves are tender and remove easily from the artichoke. Tasting one is the way to go.)

Mix the ingredients for the stuffing and set aside

For the babies:

Prepare a bowl with juice of 1 lemon and enough water to cover the baby artichokes after you trim them.

To trim: Cut off the baby artichoke stem at the bottom, just so the artichoke will stand up straight when set down. Take off the touch outer leaves. Cur off the pointed tip of the artichoke, making it appear flatter on the top.


Pull the leaves apart gently with your thumbs to open the artichoke a little – so that it kind of looks like a flower. There is no choke to remove in the babies.


Do this all quickly as the trimmed artichokes want to brown when exposed to the air. It takes about 35 seconds per artichoke. Yes, I timed it!  Drop them quickly into the prepared bowl of water.

Take out one artichoke at a time and gently push some of the stuffing down between the leaves and into the center. Stand each one in your pan.

Top each one with a little extra grated cheese.

Drizzle with some good Extra Virgin Olive Oil if you like.

Pour the olive oil, white wine and water into the pan around the artichokes.


Cover and simmer on top of the stove for about 30-35 min. or until tender.

Do not allow the liquid to dry up – add more if needed.

  Whether using the large “adult” artichokes or the “babies, you will love these. Plan on providing lots of napkins for these STUFFED BABY ARTICHOKES, and watch as everyone licks their fingers! The “hubster” at my house, Tom Hanks, is a huge fan of the babies and can’t get enough of them. Although artichokes are notoriously hard to pair with wine, a beautiful white is my suggestion to enjoy with these – perhaps a nice Vermentino or Sauvignon Blanc.


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Risotto Alla Milanese

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LA DUCHESSA – The Play’s the Thing!

Risotto Milanese_07

Buon giorno!

A well made risotto is one of the wonders of Italian cuisine. Some like to use Carnaroli Rice – some like Arborio Rice – some like Vialone Nano, all short grain varieties. No matter which you choose, there is no denying that risotto is a memorable dish. Of all the different recipes for risotto, one sparkles for me like a perfectly cut canary gem. That is RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE. I like to give things names, so I shall call this one “La Duchessa”!

Whether served along side another dish or on its own, this risotto is a star. It is most often thought of as an accompaniment to the great Milanese favorite, Osso Buco. In my way of thinking, there is no better pairing of passion in all of Italian cuisine than this one. These star crossed lovers are symbiotic and play off one another in a perfectly directed one act play on the plate. Not only do the flavors of these two dishes compliment one another, but the visual is tantalizing. That stately veal shank prominently floating like an ocean liner, adorned with the tiny “flags” of gremolata, is only enhanced by the sunlit presence of this golden risotto. The colors are shockingly vivid. The aroma seduces as the sirens of mythology with flavors delivering a celestial triumph. Who could resist such splendor?

RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE dates as far back as the 1500’s from the Northern Italian region of Lombardia and is credited to the beautiful city of Milan. Its origins are said to come from the Sabbath Rice of the Venetian Jews.

Its simplicity makes it special: La Duchessa (the duchess) indeed! While it may smack of opulence and pomp, this risotto only appears theatrical and dramatic. It actually plays out simply, with very few ingredients, each significant to its elegant nature. When unnecessary extras are added to this brilliant dish, it falls flat. As always, the Italians know best – stick to simplicity, follow the script, and it will not disappoint.

Why the golden color? The beautiful golden color comes from the addition of Saffron threads.


But why use them? In centuries past, much of the food of Milan was actually prepared with flakes of real gold. It was considered a mark of wealth and position to use gold in food. In modern days, real gold being cost prohibitive, has been replaced with Saffron which emits the golden hue without breaking the bank! The Saffron threads are transformative to this dish.

Something different: It is not uncommon to use marrow in this risotto which brings even more richness. The marrow is the character no one expects, but provides the most surprise when introduced. Its use is optional but is another reason why the dish plays so well with the lovely marrow bones of its fellow Thespian in this performance, Osso Buco.

My preferences: I choose Arborio Rice because it is just easier – cooks faster and does the job every time. Very often, when I make risotto, I like to use Dry Vermouth instead of wine. I just like the flavor. This is one of those recipes where I appreciate the Vermouth a little more. I also like the use of shallots rather than onion in this one. The shallots are mild and sweet. For me, the flavors should all blend in this risotto, without any one of them taking center stage. Think of it as an “ensemble cast”.

Act I The players enter…


Serves: 4-6

Prep: 8 minutes

Cook: 20-30 minutes


2 1/2 c. Arborio Rice

5 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot – chopped

(1 oz. bone marrow – optional)

1/2 c. Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

6 c. chicken broth – warmed (sometimes you need a little more so plan an extra cup just in case)

Large Pinch of Saffron threads

2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter

2/3 c. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Fresh Parsley for garnish


Keep broth warm in pan on the stove. Remember, to always used warm/hot broth to your risotto so that the temperature of the rice does not drop.


Crush the Saffron threads between your fingers and add them to the warm broth to dissolve. Don’t worry if they don’t dissolve completely.

In a large wide pan, melt butter and add chopped shallot. Cook about 3 minutes.

Then add your rice and cook, stirring, another 5 minutes.

Pour in the Vermouth or wine and cook another minute or two letting it cook down some.

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You will now begin the technique of adding your warm broth slowly to the risotto pan, first with one cup, letting it absorb – and then slowly by about 1/2 cup as each previous addition of broth is absorbed by the rice.

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It is important to do this slowly, letting each addition of broth cook in before adding the next. Continue to do this until you use all or most of your broth and your risotto is tender and creamy.

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When the risotto is just tender to the bite, turn off your heat. Let it sit for a minute or two and then add the butter, letting it melt in, followed by the grated cheese. Garnish with a little fresh Flat Leaf Parsley.


The players exit and the curtain closes…


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Osso Buco

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Finding Ecstasy in Bones with Holes – 

Osso Buco_07

Buon giorno!

The famous Northern Italian OSSO BUCO (seen also as Osso Bucco), is one of those most revered among regional dishes. This magnificent dish hails from the region of Lombardia. The beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Milan is often given credit for it, and you’ll often find it as OSSO BUCO ALLA MILANESE, reflecting the city’s influence. It is an old dish that dates back to the late 19th century and is one of those peasant dishes that has so much flavor you can literally almost taste it in your dreams. It is a braised meat dish – more specifically a cross cut veal shank that is browned and then simmered for hours, a  giving forth a wealth of flavor and offering one of the delicacies of the “Italian Table – the marrow bone.

I first heard of this dish when I was a child after my parents had returned from a trip to Italy. My mother, who had a curiosity and interest in Italian regional food, was especially excited about this recipe. It was not something that her family or my father’s Neapolitan family had made. She enjoyed it in Italy and talked endlessly about it. Ironically, it was one of the first Italian dishes I served to guests shortly after I was married. It is a simple dish, full of simple ingredients, each a singular movement of aromatic splendor, coming together to complete a sonata of flavor that plays on in one’s memory. OSSO BUCO is a triumph!

Strangely, I had not made it in a long while. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying a beautiful preparation of this dish at the home of our good friends, Peter and Katrina Costa. Katrina’s Osso Buco was so lovely and hit all the right notes which continued to sweetly replay in my mind for days afterward. It brought back so many delicious memories that I knew I had to bring this classic dish to your attention.

Things that make this dish so special: I already mentioned the marrow but it deserves a revisit. Generally the shanks are cut to about 1 1/2 inches revealing a round and generous bone filled with succulent marrow. This marrow mingles with the sauce to give it a rich flavor. In “knowing” restaurants, this dish is served with a special narrow fork that fits perfectly into the “hole in the bone” to dig for the delicious marrow treasure.

The classic technique for the dish is braising – a method seemingly invented for it.The meat is browned and then simmered with an assembly of fresh aromatics. It is one of those recipes that MUST be prepared a day ahead for the flavors to bond. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Each lucky guest receives one veal shank, the perfect size for each person. The shank is topped with gremolata, a fresh mixture of parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and sometimes anchovy. It is sprinkled on top like fairy dust giving the meat and sauce a touch of brightness and beauty.

There are several ways to serve it. Some like it with mashed potatoes – some like pasta. The classic accompaniment, Risotto Alla Milanese, a beautiful gold colored risotto, kissed with saffron and simply prepared, seems almost divinely inspired. This is the way I like it best. Watch for this Risotto recipe here on the blog next week!


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 2 hrs. 15 min.


4 Veal Shanks (shins) cross cut with the bone left in

Flour for dredging with some salt and pepper

3 Tbsp.Olive oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

5 Baby Carrots – chopped finely

1 Stalk Celery – chopped finely

1 onion – chopped finely

3 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

1 c. Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine

1 Tbsp. Marjoram leaves – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

6 San Marzano Tomatoes – from the can without juices – tomatoes only chopped coarsely

1/2 c. Chicken Broth

1 Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

A slice of lemon to throw in the pot

Salt & Pepper to taste


Veal shanks ready for this dish can be found in many markets now. If you can’t find them, ask your butcher to get them for you.

*Make this dish one day ahead.

Dredge the shanks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Brown the shanks in the oil and butter – a couple of minutes each side. Then remove the meat to a platter and reserve.

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In the same pot, cook the chopped carrots, celery, and onion for about 5 minutes.

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

Place the veal shanks back in the pot on top of the vegetables and add the wine, scraping the bits off of the bottom.

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Add the herbs to the pot.

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Chop the tomatoes coarsely with a knife and fork, and add them to the pot. Mix them in.

Osso Buco_06

Pour in the chicken broth and add the squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the lemon slice.

Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot and place in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. A couple of times during the cooking process, carefully turn the veal shanks over in the sauce.

When finished, cool and put the pot into the refrigerator until the next day. Before serving heat on top of the stove or in the oven.

Serve one veal shank per person with a sprinkle of Gremolata. Some like to mix the Gremolata into the sauce. This is fine but sprinkling it on the top makes for a prettier presentation.


Mix together and sprinkle on top of each serving:

  grated zest of 1 lemon

  2 Cloves fresh garlic – chopped finely

  1/2 c. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

  1-2 Anchovy fillets – chopped finely

The OSSO BUCO can actually be served with either white or red wine depending on your preference. If you choose white, select something dry like a Langhe Arneis. My personal preference is the red  – an Amarone Valpolicella Ripassa, or Barbera d’Alba. All of these wines are from the North, where this dish originates, and any one of them would be a match made in heaven for this beautiful dish.

  Watch for the next recipe “RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE” – If ever a dish had a soul mate, this one is it!


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Sicilian Blood Orange Salad with Shrimp

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Insalata di Aranci Pattuali e Gamberi

Blood Orange - Shrimp_01

Buon giorno!

It’s funny how sometimes the simplest of dishes can really pack a whallop! SICILIAN BLOOD ORANGE SALAD WITH SHRIMP is one of those. Whether you make this beautiful salad with or without the shrimp, it is a visual paradise as well as a temptress for the palate.

Tradition: This gorgeous salad has its roots in Sicily, specifically Palermo, among the HUGE oranges grown there. Everything in Sicily seems bigger, brighter, bolder.  The Orange Salad, using any type of orange, is almost a staple for the Sicilian table. It is very common to find oranges of any variety at the table at Easter in many Italian homes. We always had them in our Easter Antipasto, sliced as an accompaniment to the Basket Cheese, Mozzarella, and spring onions. When Blood Oranges are out of reach, any wonderful orange can step in as an “under study”. Navel Oranges are nice and sweet and offer a great alternative to the Blood Oranges if you can’t find them.

However,  when you can get them, Blood Oranges with their remarkable color and distinctive taste are a perfect choice, I think, to make the Orange Salad a little brighter, somewhat different, and definitely more special. These oranges fall somewhere between a pomelo and a tangerine and can be a little tart. Some say they even taste a little on the raspberry side rather than orange. If you are unfamiliar with this variety, take a look at this:

Blood Orange Martini_03

Now you understand why they call them “Blood Oranges”. The meat of the orange is red. Like much of Sicilian cuisine, the Arab influence is present in these oranges, as most agree that they brought them along for the ride during the “conquering years”. These succulent crimson delights, with their antioxidant properties, have been grown in Sicilian groves since the 18th century and are the numero uno of oranges in all of Italy.They happen to be seasonal right now, and it is a perfect time to think about serving them in all sorts of ways.

Unconventional: The traditional version of this recipe is made without shrimp and is served as a side dish. It pairs especially well with almost any grilled meat or fish.  As for the addition of the shrimp – I just like ‘em! This salad is a winner in my book either way. When using the shrimp, note that I like to grill or roast them for much better flavor. For today, let’s choose a different path and use the shrimp which kind of dress up the salad and make it a meal, if you wish. YES, it’s one of those dishes that just begs to be served On the Patio!! You must know how I love those!

What’s the big deal? OK – so why make such a big hoo-ha out of oranges on a plate? Let me clue you in on a little secret: the Sicilians knew what they were doing with these oranges. It isn’t only the oranges that knock this one out of the park – although they help. Once again, it is the combination of select fresh and wonderful ingredients, simple and basic on their own, that come together and to pack a major punch for your taste buds. Something happens when the oranges mingle with the red onions, capers, pignolis, fennel, basil, olives and that most brilliant of ingredients – a good Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is the time to get out the best Extra Virgin you can afford.

Make this dish fresh, just prior to serving. Offered as a colorful antipasto, a salad, or the main event, this SICILIAN BLOOD ORANGE SALAD WITH SHRIMP  or Insalata di Aranci Pattuali e Gamberi is one amazing dish!


Blood Orange - Shrimp_03

Serves: 4

Prep: 35 minutes


1 lb. Large or Extra Large Shrimp, peeled, cleaned (optional)

5 1/2 Blood Oranges (or Navel Oranges if you can’t find Blood Oranges) – peeled and sliced

1 Fresh Fennel Bulb sliced (See the post: Makes Me Want to Cluck for the “how to” in slicing fennel)

1 Red Onion Sliced thinly

Handful of Black Olives, Kalamatas, Cerignola Blacks, or Gaetas

2-3 Tbsp. Capers – rinsed and drained

1/4 c. Toasted Pignolis (pine nuts)

Coarse Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Basil – Chopped

The best Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can afford – time for the good one!


Toss the shrimp in some olive oil, add salt and pepper. You can even save 1/2 orange and squeeze the juice over the shrimp if you like! Then grill or roast the shrimp – a couple of minutes each side. Shrimp should be crunchy not dry. Don’t overcook. Set aside to cool. You can do this part ahead, if you want.

Arrange the sliced oranges on the plate.

Follow with the sliced fresh fennel and sliced red onion.

Next – scatter the olives and the capers on the top.

Sprinkle the toasted pignolis over.

Add salt and pepper.

Garnish the top with chopped fresh basil.

Drizzle with that beautiful Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

For a beautiful pairing: Try a Langhe Arneis with this! My new favorite out there is: Donna Anita Langhe Arneis DOC 2010 from the Piedmont. A Sauvignon Blanc would be nice as well.


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April: Asparagus Frittata with Leeks and Ricotta

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Buon giorno!

Frittatas are funny little “creatures”. You can adapt them to serve at almost any time of day or likewise for almost any need at your table. This ASPARAGUS FRITTATA WITH LEEKS & RICOTTA is no different in this regard and will definitely be a crowd pleaser. It is just as simple to prepare as any frittata – but this one is a little bit different in its buttery and creamy flavor. The addition of buttery leeks and creamy ricotta is responsible for this.

The resulting frittata is a delicious spring delight, bursting with goodness and flavor, largely from the vegetables themselves. It is a first choice, for sure, for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. However, it is a great selection as an appetizer cut into smaller pieces and served cold or room temperature as a finger food.

A word about the ingredients:

 I suggest using good whole milk ricotta for this, as you are entrusting the ricotta to make this a rich and creamy frittata. You might want to mash it with a fork first.

As for the asparagus I usually like to trim my asparagus, but it is optional. It’s probably a good idea if it is especially thick and fibrous.

The leeks in this dish are an amazing addition.


There aren’t many things in life more tasty than a buttered leek! However, when cooking with leeks, it is important to clean them properly and thoroughly. This is not a difficult thing. It just takes an extra moment or two. Cut off the root end and also trim off the leek where it begins to go bright green. For this dish, you’ll want to slice them up and drop them all in a bowl of cold water. Swish them around with your hands until any sand is loosened from them. Drain them and rinse again if needed. That’s it!

So simple – you just won’t believe it!


Serves: 6 (definitely more if used as an appetizer)

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes


1 bunch asparagus – trim the ends and peel if needed. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees until tender – about 10-12 min. depending on the thickness of your asparagus.Set aside.


3 Leeks (About 2 1/2 c. sliced) rinsed and cleaned of any sand

2 Tbsp. Butter melted

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole shallot chopped (that means use the whole bulb with the multiple cloves)

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

12 Large Eggs – beaten

1/4 c. Heavy Cream

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 c. Grated or shredded Pecorino Cheese

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh Rosemary

1 c. Whole Milk Ricotta – mashed a little with a fork to soften

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling


After roasting the asparagus, cut off the ends leaving the spear at about 3-4 inches long. Chop the ends into pieces about an inch long. Keep the spears and the chopped ends separate.

Leeks: slice off and discard the root. Cut the bright green part off and discard. Cut the remaining leek in sliced rounds, drop in a bowl with cold water and swish around to clean the sand from the rounds. Rinse again if needed and drain off the water. Pat the leeks dry.

Leeks (2)

Toss the leeks in the melted butter and oil, add salt and pepper and roast at 400 or saute, if preferred until tender.

Roasted leeks

Put butter and oil in a saute pan, heat and add chopped shallots. Cook until tender – about 5 minutes.


Add the cream, salt, pepper, cheese, and Rosemary to the beaten eggs and mix together and pour into a large oiled fry pan.

Distribute the cooked leeks and chopped roasted asparagus throughout the eggs in the pan and press them in a little to make them sink.


Spoon dollops of ricotta into the eggs all around. Do not mix together. Just let the dollops sit there.

Place the roasted asparagus spears around the surface of the frittata in a decorative manner that suits you.

frittata 2

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the frittata on the top of the stove at medium to medium high until partially set. The bottom and sides should be set with the middle runny.

Place the fry pan in the preheated oven and bake until set in the middle – about 10 minutes.

Slide the frittata out of the pan onto a plate. It should come right out with a little nudge from a spatula. Drizzle your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top before serving.

Enjoy this ASPARAGUS FRITTATA WITH LEEKS & RICOTTA with a crisp white wine, like Donna Anita Langhe Arneis (my new favorite Italian white) or a Sauvignon Blanc, or as an appetizer, with almost any cocktail. And yes – it is one of those dishes that will make you want to race for a seat “On the Patio” to fully enjoy its fresh spring goodness. See you there!


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Italian Sweet Easter Bread

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Pane Dolce di Pasqua –

1303_Easter 2019_004

Buon giorno!

While we are all getting ready in this country to hippity-hop down the bunny trail  – or jelly bean trail, as my kids used to do – in Italy they are preparing for one of the biggest events of the year, Easter. Like many other feast days in Italy, this day is steeped in religious roots. It is a treasured day on the calendar, and one anticipated with excitement, as Lent is finally over. Everyone can return to to normal eating with no abstinence, fasting, restriction etc.

When I was growing up in my childhood home in Binghamton, NY, my mother and father, Loretta and Attilio (Read more about them on the ABOUT PAGE on my website.) prepared weeks ahead for Easter. One of my favorite things during this time of preparation was the SWEET EASTER BREAD or Pane Dolce di Pasqua or Pane di Pasqua. I loved to help my mother make this, as I was the one in charge of dying the eggs! Sometimes she would even give me some dough to make a small bread of my own. The aroma in the house while this bread was baking was intoxicatingly sweet. Very often, when Loretta served the bread, she placed a palm cross on the top, marking the religious significance of the day, as was the custom in presenting many of the Easter dishes.

Today, when I braid the dough for this bread, those memories seem to be entwined with it. I cannot make it without smiling and remembering. It’s one of those “memory trigger” things we all have within us. For instance, I can recall that one of our favorite uses for this sweet bread was to toast it and spread it with butter, jam, or cream cheese. The cream cheese thing was Loretta’s favorite. We still enjoy it toasted in the morning with coffee at breakfast time. Of course, I manage to find several other times of the day to continue to indulge, as well. This sweet bread is insanely delicious.

This is not a difficult bread to make. As a matter of fact, it is one of the easier ones. It just takes a little time. As far as how many breads to make, that is up to you. You can make one large one, two medium ones, or several smaller individual ones which is especially fun for kids and also a nice way to decorate each place at your table by giving each guest one of them. Also, instead of making braided circular nests, you can leave the twisted ropes of dough in a single line and serve it as a more rectangular loaf.

It is important to remember not to boil your eggs before dying them and nesting them in the dough before baking. Just turn the raw eggs gently in the dye, dry them, and carefully place them raw in the dough. They will bake along with the bread. Easy!

Mmmm, I’m dreaming of ITALIAN SWEET EASTER BREAD with some of that yummy Fig Jam many of us made with the fresh figs of last summer. I just happen to have some in my freezer for this luscious occasion. For the recipe, visit my post: All Figged Up with Fig Jam and Fig Crostata.

The bunnies at my house are all getting hungry. ANDIAMO!



1303_Easter 2019_003

Prep: 3 hours (with the rising)

Bake: about 30 minutes


As many Dyed Raw Eggs as you want to nestle in your bread (usually 4-6 or 7) – MUST be raw.

4 1/2 c. Flour (Divided into 4 c. and 1/2 c.)

1/2 c. Sugar

1 envelope Dry Active Yeast

1 tsp. salt

1 c. Warm milk

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 tsp. Liquid Anise (found with the spices & extracts at your grocer)

2 Extra Large Eggs – room temperature – beaten

1/2 c. Coarsely chopped slivered almonds

1 c. Chopped Candied Orange Peel or Golden Raisins (to make your own candied orange peel, visit: HERE )

Zest of one orange

1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed

Olive Oil for oiling bowl

1 Egg beaten a little to glaze the bread before baking

Colored Sprinkles ( found in baking area at grocer)


Place 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your food processor.

Add warm milk, olive oil and anise.

Mix a little and then add the beaten extra large eggs – mix again.

Easter Bread dough in processor

Add the peel (or golden raisins), almonds, zest, and fennel seed – mix again quickly just to incorporate.

Easter Bread ingredients

Mixture will be quite sticky.

Put some of the remaining 1/2 c. flour on a board, and turn the sticky dough onto it.

Easter bread dough

Work the flour into the dough and keep adding the remaining flour a little at a time as needed, until you have a smooth dough.

Easter Bread dough ball

You may or may not need the full 1/2 cup.

Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.

Then put a few drops of olive oil in a large bowl and oil the inside. Place your kneaded dough in the bowl and rub the oil that remains on your hands over the top of the dough.

Place a dish towel over the top of the bowl and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.

During the time the dough is rising, dye your RAW eggs. Don’t worry about dying too many. They are raw and any you don’t need for the bread, put in the frig to use later for something else. The number you use will depend on whether you are making a large bread or individual ones. If you dye several you’ll be fine.

When the dough has risen (about double), punch it down and divide into the number of balls you need according to how many breads you want to make.

Then roll each ball into long ropes identical in length. You will need 2 ropes per bread.

Easter Bread_0004

Take 2 ropes at a time and twist the ropes for the entire length.

Easter Bread_0007

You can leave as long breads or curve the twisted dough into circles and join at the end to make nests.

Nestle the dyed raw eggs into the twists, as many as you like or put one egg in the center of each.

Cover the breads again with a towel and let rise another hour.

Brush with beaten egg and top with colored sprinkles.

Easter Bread_0008

Easter Bread_0012

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden. (time depends on your oven)

Cool and enjoy!

SWEET ITALIAN EASTER BREAD is delicious with coffee, tea, espresso etc. For a special pairing, try with Anisette or Sambuca.


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Cherry Almond Biscotti

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Buon giorno!


Making biscotti is fun and not difficult—and OH the result! I have been in a biscotti kind of mood lately, looking for something tasty to backstroke through my tea, and also to dip in that great sweet after-dinner Vin Santo that is lurking among my favorite wines. That said, I thought it might be a good time to make some Cherry Almond Biscotti. These biscotti are really delicious. They are little beauties, with their little bits of deep red color from the cherries – dried, of course. Biscotti, of course, keep a long time in a sealed container so you can make them now and enjoy them all season. I refer you to my previous post on biscotti where you’ll find information on storing them and also some interesting history on these little biscuits. (See this link: Lemon Ginger Biscotti for more info!)

What makes these little guys special? Besides being great little “dunkers”, the Cherry Almond Biscotti offer some flavors, that when used together, really combine for interesting impact. The almonds provide crunch and are toasted to bring out their best flavor. However, the little surprise is the addition of anise to the batter. Mmmm…This gives them an essence that is soothing and fragrant and, with the anise, pairs well with after dinner coffee or espresso. Think of making these as a little “aromatherapy” because that is exactly what will happen. I can think of no better late night snack  than one of two of these biscotti with a lovely glass of Vin Santo or even Sambuca for dunking – just like the Italians do. Give your cup of chamomile tea a sweet unexpected dipper before bed. It will surely be enhanced and brightened with that tasty of cherry and almond.

A word about the cherries: Try to use a really good dried cherry for this recipe. The sweeter the better! I was fortunate making these for this demonstration, as I had received an incredible little “care” package of dried Michigan cherries from my friend, Peggy, who sent them from her home in Birmingham, near Detroit. These cherries were large and so sweet that I had a hard time not eating them before they made it to the batter. I have to admit that several landed in my mouth during the cooking process. The quality of the cherries does make a difference in this recipe.

Honestly, they need no further embellishment – so I will rely on my old “friend”, Cicero, from my high school Latin training for the literal translation-  “Res Ipsa Loquitur”—The thing speaks for itself!

You’ll soon see…


Makes: 28-30

Prep: 25 minutes

Bake: 1 hour


3 1/2 c. flour

1 c. sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

2 1/2 Tsp. baking powder

1 stick butter cut in pieces

3 eggs

2 1/2 tsp. liquid anise ( in spice aisle of grocer)

1 c. dried cherries

1 c. toasted sliced almonds

Biscotti Cherry Almond_22


In food processor (you can also use a mixer) – place flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix quickly.

Add butter pieces and process to work in until mixture in crumbly.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_14

Whisk: eggs and anise.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_17

Add eggs to the processor and mix until just combined and dough just begins to form.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_23

Add cherries and almonds.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_15

Pulse a couple of times to work into the dough. Then turn dough out onto board and finish working the cherries and almonds in with hands.

Form a ball with the dough.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_21

Divide into 2 balls.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_33

Roll each ball into a rope about 10 “ long.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_01

Form each rope into 2 logs about 10×2.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_04

Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper and flatten a little.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and carefully remove to a rack or board for 15-20 minutes.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_05

Then cut into 1/2” thick slices.

Biscotti Cherry Almond_06

Return slices to baking sheets (with parchment). Leave a little space between them so they will dry properly.

Reduce the oven temp. to 325 and bake 30 minutes more to dry the biscotti.

When finished, remove the biscotti and cool completely.

Optional: If you like, drizzle a little glaze on the tops, when cool. Make this up quickly from a cup of powdered sugar , 1 tsp. anise, 1 tbsp. milk. Adjust your liquid amounts on this if needed to get the consistency you want.

These lovelies keep a long time in a sealed plastic container.

You won’t be able to put the CHERRY ALMOND BISCOTTI away before trying one or two – so have a cup of tea, coffee, or espresso ready for a chaser!


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How To Stuff a Pig–Braciole di Maiale

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Pork Braciole – Last Recipe in the Braciole Series


Buon giorno!

There she is! The siren! See her there – swimming naked in a blushing pool of coral loveliness – shamelessly waiting to be noticed  – looking back with a “come hither” glance. It is in her saucy nature to ask her admirers, “lookin’ for a good time?”  She waits – she knows – she owns all who gaze upon her longing for just one more… This one, this sizzling vamp, this BRACIOLE DI MAIALE is the sexy dish, they’ll be talking about long after you serve it!

Got your attention? Focus!!

So maybe it’s not the stuff of the romance novels with which you are familiar, I know – I know –  IT’S PORK– but it darn well presses all MY buttons for sure! This BRACIOLE DI MAIALE or PORK BRACIOLE is one of those great dishes that does not take a monumental effort, but has maximum impact. It is stunning, romantic, oozing with flavor, and ablaze with color and interest – yeah it’s hot!

However, “Her Hotness” is actually an easy dish to put together. Great dishes, don’t have to be complicated. Not difficult – Think about it: a butterflied pork tenderloin, stuffing piled on top, you roll it up, tie it and— then turn your attention to the incredibly flavorful sauce which is equally easy to make, and sure to please. Simple enough?

THIS little piggy: The pork tenderloin is the “little princess”- “the jewel” among piggy parts. This cut is very tender and easy to prepare, but, at the same time, is not really going to knock your sox off in the flavor department. For this reason, your preparation and the flavors/ingredients you add to it are critical, if  you want your tenderloin to be memorable. Your pork tenderloin will be as flavorful as YOU decide to make it. It will also demonstrate your respect for the cut in NOT overcooking it. To overcook this delicious and tender little darling is really sad and unnecessary – not to mention that it wrecks any promise of a juicy and tender mouthful, unless you enjoy chewing cotton.

Solution? DON”T DO IT! You will find, in this recipe, that we merely sear the stuffed meat quickly, and then simmer it for only 30 minutes in the oven. That’s IT! That is all it truly needs.

More piggy: Note the use of salt pork in the sauce. Because this has so much flavor on its own, no additional salt is needed in the sauce. The salt pork, melting away as it cooks, will do it all – and you really don’t use that much of it. I like to divide the salt pork into small packages when I purchase it and freeze them. I pull them out as I need them. A tip: chop it up when it’s partially frozen. It is much easier to chop this way, and it will not move and squish all over your board. A sharp knife slides right through it.

The last little piggy is in the stuffin’: The stuffing in this recipe, which includes more pork in the form of sausage, adds flavor as well as interest to the dish. I mean really – look at it – gorgeous thick slices of juicy meat, full of color, texture, and interest. Each slice is almost a meal in itself with: rich Italian sausage, fresh spinach, roasted red peppers , and fresh mozzarella. If you like, for the mozzarella, try the smoked for a little change. This is delicious when paired with the sausage – earthy, with another level of great flavor!

A word about great pork: Meat is not just meat, and pork is not just pork – which is the reason I want to talk a little about: Circle B Ranch , owned and operated by Marina and John Backes, and their pork products from the Ozarks. Follow the link here and at Linda’s Italian Table website to hear about pork as you may not have imagined it. Circle B Ranch is certified to raise Heritage breeds such as Berkshire/Kurabota and Red Wattle in the most natural way from birth to harvest. Heritage breeds must have special genetic characteristics, and also must be raised on organic and sustainable farms. That means, the animals graze openly in their beautiful pastures. See the photo, here showing the sows teaching their young how to forage for acorns, nuts etc. Their delicious meat reflects the way they feed, graze etc. – all natural with no growth hormones, antibiotics and other additives. Circle B Ranch pork is a superior product that I feel fortunate to associate with on my website and to use in my Italian recipes. Check out their website, read their interesting story, and order and enjoy their great pork cuts. I know you’ll appreciate the difference!

Pigs grazing

“Wild thing – you make my heart sing!”




Braciole 0005

Serves: 4

Prep: 30 min.

Cook: 35 min.


1 1/3-1 1/2 lb. Pork Tenderloin – butterflied, opened up and pounded a little to make a thin slab of meat (For the best Pork Tenderloin experience order from: Circle B Ranch)

Olive Oil

1/3 c. Pecorino Romano Cheese – grated

1/8 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

At least a cup of packed baby spinach leaves – or enough to cover the surface of the meat.

1/2 lb. Mild Italian Sausage – taken out of casings, crumbled and browned in a tbsp. Olive Oil

About 4-5 large pieces of Roasted Peppers – or enough to cover the center of the stuffing (roasted peppers in the jar are fine for this or roast your own using this link: Sovana and the Mystery Dish)

Sliced Fresh Mozzarella – sliced thinly – enough to cover the stuffing in a nice layer (8 oz. ball will work)

String – cut in several 10 inch pieces to tie the stuffed tenderloin


Butterfly or have your butcher butterfly and open up your pork tenderloin, pounding a little with a mallet to make flat and create a wide surface for stuffing.

Rub surface of opened tenderloin with some olive oil.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and red pepper flakes.

Follow with  the spinach leaves laid across the surface.

Pork a

Spread the crumbled, browned sausage over the top.

Pork b

Place roasted peppers on the sausage.

Pork c

Lay the mozzarella cheese slices over the peppers.

Pork d (2)

Face the meat horizontally, and fold in the two ends – so that stuffing will not escape.

Begin rolling the tenderloin away from you on the long horizontal side, thumbs underneath and use fingers to hold back the stuffing as you roll.

When meat is completely rolled, place it so that the open seam is underneath and begin to tie the roast with strings. Use as many as you need to secure. Cut off the long ends of the strings.

Pork 1


3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 c. Chopped Salt Pork (easier to cut if salt pork is slightly frozen)

1 onion – chopped

1 c. Dry Vermouth

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1/2 c. Beef Stock or Broth

Fresh Chopped Basil or Flat Leaf Parsley for garnish

1/4 – 1/3 c. Rinsed drained tiny capers


Put oil and butter in a large pot. Add salt pork. Cook a couple of minutes. Then add the onion and continue cooking at medium high about 5 more minutes.

Place the Stuffed Tenderloin in the pan. Turn it and brown on all sides.

Pork 2

Pork 3

Add the Vermouth and cook another 3 minutes on medium high.

Mix tomato paste with the stock or broth to dilute. Add to the pot and stir.

Pork 4

Place the pot in a 400 degree oven uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the tenderloin a few times during this period so the sauce will soak into all sides.

Pork 5

Remove the pot from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes – This is IMPORTANT – do not cut into it until after it rests. You can, however, snip off the strings, as the pork rests, and discard them.

To Serve:

Slice the tenderloin THICKLY.

Pork Braciole 0002

1.You can use the sauce with pasta such as Fusilli Pugliese, Strozzapretti, Orecchiette, Penne Pasta or similar – with the thickly sliced pork on the side. Garnish with the fresh basil or parsley and sprinkle with capers.

2.Another way to serve it: Lay the thick slices in some of the beautiful sauce, with some roasted sliced potatoes on the side. Again, garnish with fresh basil or parsley, and sprinkle with capers.

Either way, this PORK BRACIOLE is a winning dish every time –seductive, tender, juicy, and the sauce —oh, the sauce! Because of the richness of the sauce and the stuffing, I like a bolder red with this pork, perhaps a beautiful Chianti Classico, like L’Aura Chianti Classico 2008 DOCG from Azienda Agricola di Castellina or a Barbera D’Albalike Lo Zoccolaio Sucule 2007.

Ahhh! Just try to forget her…


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Braciole–Two Ways!

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Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole – Part Two


Buon giorno!

The BRACIOLE saga continues. In the last episode, we dealt with stuffing it in a very traditional Neapolitan way  – thus: BRACIOLE NAPOLETANA with breadcrumbs, grated cheese, pignolis, etc. In case there was any question, there is more that one way to stuff Braciole.  In this post, we’ll stuff BRACIOLE – TWO WAYS.

The first: My mother, Loretta, was fond of stuffing things with hard boiled eggs. She often stuffed her meatloaf and meatballs with them – my least favorite as a child, and now I can’t get enough of them – a prime example of how youth is pitifully wasted on the young! My mother also liked to stuff her BRACIOLE with hardboiled eggs,  BRACIOLE CON UOVA. To a non-Italian, this might all sound a little strange. It is actually a very easy and most delicious way to approach this stuffed meat dish. It is also quite a tradition in many Italian kitchens. The hard boiled egg stays remarkable intact even when the BRACIOLE is simmered for a couple of hours in sauce. When it is sliced, it is, perhaps, the most attractive form for serving it. When making a large BRACIOLE more than one egg is used. You would use as many eggs as will fit horizontally across the meat. In our recipe, I demonstrate making individual rolls. Either way, you would follow the same instructions for stuffing, rolling, and binding with string or toothpicks.

The second: Another recipe, BRACIOLE WITH SWISS CHARD, is another very appealing way to present this delicious dish. Swiss Chard is sweeter than most greens and quite tender when the stalks and spines are removed. You would use only the tender leaves for this preparation. The Swiss Chard in this dish is enhanced and complimented by the inclusion of some other Sicilian favorite ingredients: pignolis, raisins, and Pecorino cheese. YUM!

I present both of these amazingly delicious BRACIOLE dishes with one of my favorite things in life: polenta! An easy method for preparing polenta can be found in one of my previous posts here: Polenta – It’s So Corny and in another post with a cool serving idea here: Serving Polenta.  Again, I will demonstrate with individual servings, but you follow the same instructions when making one or two larger ones.

I don’t know about you, but all this chatter is making me very hungry. Let’s crack the code!!


(Recipe #1 – Braciole with Eggs)

Serves: about 4

Prep: 30-35 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours


1 1/2 lb beef top round or flank steak – if meat is thick, butterfly it or ask your butcher to do this. You’ll want thin slices of meat for rolling.

Olive Oil

1/2 c. Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1/2 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grated Aged Provolone Cheese

2 tbsp. Garlic chopped finely

1 Hard Boiled Egg for each roll (4-6)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Toothpicks or string (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

3-4 Tbsp. Olive oil for browning

Tomato Sauce ( see recipe for this sauce here: ( If It’s Sunday, It’s Braciole)


You’ll need a mallet or something heavy to pound the meat. This type of mallet comes with a side with sharp points for tenderizing.


Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin and beat with tenderizer side to further tenderize the meat.


If making  smaller ones cut the meat into 5-6” slices.


Rub each slice with olive oil. Follow with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a hard boiled egg at the top of the meat slice.


Begin rolling.



Roll each slice vertically and secure with toothpicks or string.

You can use 2 or 3 strings to secure the smaller ones. If making large ones, use more string or toothpicks.


Brown the rolls in olive oil. When finished – remove them and make the Tomato Sauce in the same pan. For the sauce, link here: Tomato Sauce for simmering and finishing.



(Recipe #2)


Serves: about 4

Prep: 30-35 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours


1 1/2 lb beef top round or flank steak – if meat is thick, butterfly it or ask your butcher to do this. You’ll want thin slices of meat for rolling.

1 bunch cleaned Swiss Chard – thick spines and stalks removed – use leaves only – saute about 5-7 minutes in 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil with a clove of chopped garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Set aside.


Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. fresh garlic chopped finely

1/2 c. Toasted pignolis (pine nuts)

1/2 c. golden raisins

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 c. Pecorino Romano Cheese grated


Follow the instructions for preparing the meat for stuffing in the preceding recipe.

Rub each piece of meat with some olive oil and add some prepared Swiss Chard, chopped garlic, toasted pignolis, golden raisins, red pepper flakes, and grated cheese to each slice.


Roll each meat slice and secure with strings or toothpicks as in recipe above.


Proceed as directed in the recipe above with browning the rolls and simmering in the Tomato Sauce.

No matter which of the stuffings you use, each is really delicious and memorable in its own way. Better yet, try them all! I recommend a beautiful full bodied vino rosso to enjoy with your Braciole – maybe a lovely Chianti Classico or a fabulous Brunello di Montalcino.

**Don’t forget to check next week’s post – third in this series  – the crescendo!


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March: If It’s Sunday, It’s Braciole!

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The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series – Part 1


Buon giorno!

When I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, NY, Braciole was a big deal. It wasn’t part of those random Tuesday night dinners with sauce. It was reserved for special family gatherings, usually on Sundays. If you’re Italian, you know what I mean – the kind that lasted for 3 hours.  Even as a child, I knew If It’s Sunday, It’s Braciole! My mother, Loretta, would make it a day ahead. She used lard in it, as so many really good cooks did in those days. Ah, everything tasted better then.

Because Braciole is so memorable to Italians and in Italian cooking, I decided that it warranted a series of posts- specifically three –  and not just one. Thus, The Braciole, Braciole, and More Braciole Series seemed inevitable! Is it THAT good? Yes, it is—and it’s also about that memory thing again. It is a part of the fond memories of most Italians who can recite who in their upbringing made the very best. In my case, it would definitely be my mother.

Ok – so you’re not Italian, and don’t have the inside skinny on what we’re talking about here. Braciole is a classic Italian meat dish – pronounced “bra-shol-e” – accent on the second syllable. It is probably found in every region in Italy in some form and using all different types of meat. In some regions, it is called “involtini”. The traditional Neapolitan preparation uses rolled beef – usually top round or flank steak. It is pounded thin, stuffed, rolled, tied with string, browned in olive oil, and then left to simmer in a beautiful sea of tomato sauce until done. That is the style we will use to begin our series. When the Braciole is ready to be served, each roll is removed from the sauce. The strings are clipped and discarded, and the rolls are cut into beautiful slices revealing the stuffing within.

The Braciole is often served with pasta. The pasta is served first, with the sliced meat usually following. One of my favorite ways to eat the Braciole in sauce is with polenta. The sauce is always quite flavorful and makes the polenta a beautiful receptacle for its red goodness – not to mention a lovely choice to have with the meat. That is the way you will see it in the series, but you can just as easily serve it with your favorite pasta.

Later in the series, we will take a turn with the Braciole and prepare it in a completely different way using pork tenderloin. This will be a complete departure from the slowly cooked Braciole in sauce. Stay tuned!

Loretta most often made one or two large rolls. In this series, we’ll make some smaller ones – so each person has his own “personal Braciole”. If you’d like to make the larger ones, you can, using the same instructions. Just use larger pieces of meat. The first recipe for Braciole is one my mother made often: Braciole Napoletana . A recipe for a simple tomato sauce for the “grand simmer” is included.

This is how it’s done:


(first recipe in the Braciole Series)

Makes: about 6 smaller individual ones or 1 or 2 large ones

Serves: 4 – 6

Prep: 30-35 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours


1 1/2 lb beef top round or flank steak – if meat is thick butterfly it or ask your butcher to do this. You’ll want thin slices of meat for rolling.

Olive Oil

1/2 c. Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1/2 c. Dry Breadcrumbs

1/2 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grated Aged Provolone Cheese

2 tbsp. Garlic chopped finely

1/2 c. Pignolis – toast them a little

Salt and Pepper to taste

Toothpicks or string (butcher’s twine) to secure the rolls

3-4 Tbsp. Olive oil for browning

Tomato Sauce ( see recipe for this to follow)


You’ll need a mallet or something heavy to pound the meat. This type of mallet comes with a side with sharp points for tenderizing.


Lay the meat out on a board. Pound with a mallet to thin and beat with tenderizer side to further tenderize the meat.


If making  smaller ones cut the meat into 5-6” slices.


Rub each slice with olive oil. Follow with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, pignolis and salt and pepper to taste.


Roll each slice vertically and secure with toothpicks or string.

You can use 2 or 3 strings to secure the smaller ones. If making large ones, use more string or toothpicks.


Brown the rolls in olive oil. When finished – remove them and make the sauce in the same pan.



Prep: 5 min.

Cook: 2 1/2 hours for Braciole


2 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 Cloves Garlic chopped

1 c. Red Wine

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes – give them a quick turn or 2 in the blender first

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste (dilute the paste in 1/2 c. water – stir well until dissolved into the water)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano leaves – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil – chopped

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind


Add Olive oil to the pan. Add garlic and cook a minute or two. Do not burn the garlic.

If using the sauce for Braciole, add the browned rolls back to the pan now.

With your heat turned up to medium high, add the red wine and scraped up the bits from the bottom of the pan.


Turn the rolls to coat in the wine as it cooks down for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pan, followed by the paste in water, herbs, and rind.


Cover the pan or pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours . Stir gently occasionally to turn the rolls.

Uncover the pot for the last hour of cooking to thicken.

Remove rolls before serving and remove and discard toothpicks and strings. Slice the rolls thickly.

Serve with plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The Braciole Napoletana is lovely served with pasta or polenta and your favorite vino rosso. For polenta see the post: Polenta – It’s So Corny

Be sure to look for the next post in this series!


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Easy Swiss Chard

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Greening Your Way to Good Health – Sicilian Style

Swiss Chard_11

Buon giorno!

Growing up around an Italian kitchen, you are exposed to a lot of green things. Greens are probably stamped somewhere in your Italian DNA or it’s written somewhere that all kinds of greens will become a part of your daily diet. When I was little, I wasn’t fond of greens really. I was an expert at “depositing” them in my napkin undetected. However, there was one type that I did like – SWISS CHARD! Why? I suspect that it had something to do with the delicate nature of the leaves and the sweetness of it in general. We ate it by itself, in soups and stews, and with rice. As an adult, I now enjoy all kinds of greens, bitter and sweet, but SWISS CHARD is still my favorite.

What’s up with Swiss Chard? It is much like spinach in that you can eat it raw in a salad or cook it and serve it as a side dish. You can drop it into almost any soup and be happy you did. Unlike spinach, the chard has a sweeter flavor. Actually, SWISS CHARD is a cousin of the beet. When you cut into the stalks, they emit a sweet beet-like aroma. The chard is super rich in anti-oxidants, is said to be instrumental as an anti-inflammatory, and is nothing but good for you. Here is a really cool thing about SWISS CHARD: it helps with the control of blood sugar levels in the body which is an important factor for those with diabetes. How can you miss?

Here’s the beauty part: SWISS CHARD is found in several colors. Many times you’ll find the chard in its simple green form with whitish stalks. However, this sunny green veggie could win beauty contests in the vegetable category in its more colorful forms. Some stalks are simply glorious in their vivid red, white, and golden yellow hues. This chard is referred to as Rainbow Chard for exactly that reason – when bunched together, the stalks really look like a little rainbow. The red variety not only has bright red stalks, but also has red veins. The yellow follows suit with its golden veins and stalks. It is pretty enough to arrange for a table centerpiece –  simply gaw-geous! In all colors, the taste result is sweet and delicious. It does not disappoint.

Rainbow Chard 2a

Easy cookin! SWISS CHARD may be a beauty – but she’s no diva! She definitely cooperates to provide an easy cooking experience.This is a vegetable that is tender in its natural state – so its leaves are delicious raw material in salads. Cooking it is a breeze. Today’s preparation is as simple as it gets by just giving it a quick saute in a pan. We’re going to give it a Sicilian twist using pignolis, raisins, Pecorino Romano Cheese,and a little red pepper. Cutting out the tougher spines is a good idea before cooking. One thing to remember is that the stalks are a little more firm than the tender leaves. I like to cook or steam them in a little water first before tossing them in the pan to “play catch-up” in tenderness to the leaves. That way it’s all finished at the same time.

Serving: This one’s a “no-brainer”. There must be hundreds of meats and fish – not to mention pastas – that beg to appear alongside this winning vegetable.  Everyone will love it and want it on their plates. It just has star quality. Now to prepare the red carpet!


Serves: 4 as a side

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 5-7 minutes


1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard – cleaned and trimmed of any nasty spots (Prettier if you can find the colorful chard)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Garlic Cloves chopped finely

1/4 c. Toasted Pignolis (pine nuts)

1/3 c. raisins – can be golden or dark (you can even use dried cranberries)

1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese


Wash the chard and remove any dirt or sand. Cut off the stalks and chop them. Set them aside for a quick pre-cook.

Tear the leaves into pieces. Cut out & discard any thick spines.

Boil the chopped stems for 5 minutes until just fork tender. Drain them.

Put the olive oil and chopped garlic in a fry pan. Cook the garlic in the oil for a minute – do not burn.

With heat turned to med high – add the chard leaves and the drained chopped stalks. It will shrink down as it cooks.

Swiss Chard_10

After about 4 minutes – add the pignolis, raisins, and red pepper flakes – toss and continue to cook. Total cooking should take 5-7 minutes. However, regardless of timing – cook until tender. The overall tenderness of your leaves and intensity of your heat may determine the exact time. In any case, the preparation is quick and easy, and the result just delicious. Think of what a healthy dish this is!

Top with shavings of Pecorino Romano Cheese and dive in!


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Carnevale Cake

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Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Carnevale Cake


Buon giorno!

Carnevale is a festive and happy time in Italy. It is kind of the “last hurrah” before the period of lenten fasts, abstinence, and repentance. Elaborate masks and even costumes are donned, and the celebration begins early and leaves late – lasting for weeks and with the final big splash on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnevale brings many traditional dishes with it each year. One of these is a dessert cake, CARNEVALE CAKE  or SCHIACCIATA ALLA FIORENTINA. It is absolutely addictive in flavor and amazingly easy to make.

About Carnevale: Perhaps the most well known festivals are held in Venice, home to many of the beautiful masks we associate with this event, and Viareggio in Northern Tuscany, famous for its parades and beautifully detailed floats. The official mask of Carnevale in Viareggio is “ Burlamacco”, the clown who pilfers pieces from the other character masks and costumes to make one very odd looking and sometimes scary fellow. There is even a hotel named after him. Carnevale is considered a major event in Italy. Everyone, from children to the very old, participates in some way.


The Food of Carnevale: As with every other feast day or celebratory event in Italy, Carnevale seems to have its own set of foods that are associated with it. Every region has a special dish or dishes that they prepare to mark the celebration and especially on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of fun. As with other regional dishes, you’ll find similarities and differences in some recipes from region to region.

Polenta (a form of cornmeal mush) is a favorite in Italian households on Shrove Tuesday here in the US and in Italy. There will be some variation in how the polenta is made from region to region. Italians prepare it in all sorts of ways. In the south, most notably in Campania, the Napoletanas like to serve it with a beautiful red tomato sauce containing sausage and tiny meatballs. They serve it on a large board or platter and everyone eats from it. This is the way, my family enjoyed it every Shrove Tuesday for as long as I can remember. In my early days, my father, Attilio, would stand me up on a chair and let me stir the polenta with a special endlessly long wooden spoon – one of the most vivid of my childhood memories. For two posts on polenta try these other links on my site:


and also


Smashed, crushed, and squeezed: Whatever am I getting at here now? And no, it is not a new way to order hash browns at the Waffle House. Schiacciata translates to “smashed, crushed, squeezed” and a variety of other words of a similar nature. What exactly are we smashing, crushing or squeezing? Not a thing really! This is a very typical stew you find yourself in with so many Italian words and translations. As my mother, Loretta, used to say, “It sounds better in Italian.” She had a point.

The many faces of Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina:  This Schiacciata or CARNEVALE CAKE takes many forms in Italy. It is mainly a Tuscan idea, specifically Florentine. You’ll find it as a bread, a focaccia, a stuffed bread, a cake, and even a pizza. None of these have much similarity in preparation to one another.

Today’s Schiacciata at Linda’s Italian Table is most definitely a cake. It is a beautiful and simple cake to prepare (all in one bowl) and is also an example of the very popular and much requested Olive Oil Cake. The olive oil is not only good for you, but it also makes this cake irresistibly moist – giving it a an almost unique consistency. I have used lemon in this one: both extract and zest to give it a VERY definite citrus flavor. The special surprise is the addition of Candied Lemon Peel.I have long been a fan of the homemade candied peel. It has so many uses in baking and in cooking savory dishes. It also is delicious and different served at the end of a meal with espresso for just a little sweet treat. You can omit the Candied Lemon Peel entirely, if you wish, or use store bought – but OH the difference the homemade version makes to this cake – just can’t describe! I recommend an easy and fun recipe for making your own Candied Lemon Peel just a click away on my post “NO NEED TO PUCKER”.  This beautiful Candied Peel lasts a long time in a sealed container at room temperature or you can freeze it.

Trust me – they won’t be able to stop eating this one!!


(Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina)

Makes: one 9” round cake

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes


1 1/2 c. Flour

1 c. Ground Almonds

1 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 c. Olive Oil

3/4 c. whole milk

Zest of a fresh lemon

1 Tbsp. Lemon Extract

1 c. chopped Candied Lemon Peel (optional) For a homemade version: see my post: NO NEED TO PUCKER

Powdered sugar for dusting


Grease a 9 “ spring form pan.

Put whole almonds through a food processor to grind them finely

Mix together in a large bowl: flour, ground almonds, sugar, and baking powder.

Add olive oil and milk. Mix together until incorporated.

Add the extract and lemon zest and mix well.

Add the chopped candied lemon peel, if using it.

Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees until golden and set in the center – about 35 minutes depending on your oven. Test with a knife – if it comes out clean – you’re done!

Release and remove the side of the spring form pan and cool. Dust with sifted powdered sugar.

Serve: You will love this beautiful lemony CARNEVALE CAKE. You might enjoy it with a glass of Limoncello and an espresso! Believe me – there is nothing lovelier than this cake – especially as your swan song before Lent.

Just one more thing: Don’t forget your mask!


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