Recipe of the Month November: Stuffed Quail With Orange Sauce

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A Whale of a Quail!

Quail finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

Long thought to be a luscious item reserved for hunting households and gourmet menus, STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE has been missing from many tables over the years. In many regions of Italy, where they hunt for sport and sustenance, quail has been part of the menu along with other game birds – partridge, pheasant etc. Until more recently, in the US, it was unavailable in markets. However, during the 80’s farms developed to provide these game birds to the average household. It began with special orders, and now quail is available frozen, in many local markets. These birds have actually been of high quality and are clean and ready to prepare.

Many are unfamiliar with these tiny birds. They are very tiny and can be eaten easily by just picking them up in your fingers. If not overcooked, they are juicy and tasty. You can stuff them as you see here or simply roast or broil them. They are often served with some sort of fruit – or fruit sauce as shown. It is a perfect choice for cooking with dried fruits. Italians often enjoy serving their quail over polenta.

I enjoyed quail and other game birds during my growing up years with my family. My father, Attilio, was a passionate hunter, and hunted many types of game birds as the seasons dictated. He brought them all home to be eaten by the family. The birds were immediately plucked and cleaned in our kitchen and then sometimes frozen for later use. We loved the quail, in particular, because of their size. These little birds were tender and actually fun to eat. You could eat more than one for a meal or just one for a first course or starter.

My father was a great cook as well as a hunter and really knew how to prepare these birds. He always used bacon to wrap them, as fat is missing from these wild ones. The bacon kept them moist while offering great flavor. Most often, he stuffed the quail using sausage and onion and worked fruit into them somehow – either in the stuffing or the sauce or both. The resulting meal was one we relished and remember to this day how wonderful they were. He was always proud of them! Here he is preparing one of his famous quail recipes.

You can prepare most of the recipe a day ahead following the instructions. This makes the recipe so easy. Then stuff and cook the quail on the day you serve. The Orange Sauce is beautiful, with just a little sweetness and a slight hint of piquant. You can also use the sauce on Cornish Game Hens or even chicken. Plan for one quail per person as an appetizer or as a first course. Plan on two per person for dinner – but one per person will do if it follows a hefty first course. Buon appetito!

Dad - birds 2


Makes: 4 Quail

Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cook: about 40 minutes for roasting

Stuffing Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 lb. Mild Italian Sausage – out of the casings

1/2 Onion – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

1/2 C. Chopped Roasted Chestnuts (these can be purchased now roasted and packaged)

1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese  grated

1/2 C. Fresh Breadcrumbs

(1/2 C. Currants – optional)

1 Large egg

Stuffing Instructions

On medium high – cook sausage, onion, and sage in the olive oil until sausage is browned and onion is tender – About 8 minutes. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook.

Quail stuffing 1

Remove from hear and add the chestnuts, grated cheese, chestnuts, and breadcrumbs – mix together. (Add currants if using)

Quail stuffing 2

Add egg and mix.

You can make the stuffing a day ahead. If you do, you should not add the egg until just before you stuff your quail on the day you serve.

Orange Sauce Ingredients

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

1 cinnamon Stick

1/2 C. Cognac

2 Tbsp. Honey

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 Cup Orange Juice

Zest of 1 orange

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1 Sprig Fresh Tarragon

1 Bay Leaf

2 Cups Chicken Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Can (11 oz.) Mandarin Orang slices drained.

Orange Sauce Instructions

You can make this a day ahead.

Cook the onion and cinnamon stick in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.

Sauce 1

Then add the cognac – stirring and continuing to cook another minute.

Add the honey, vinegar, orange juice, zest, red pepper flakes, tarragon, Bay Leaf and broth. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Sauce 2

Cook for 20-30 minutes at a strong simmer. It will cook down some and thicken slightly. Remember – this is a sauce and not gravy. You can add a little water if it has cooked down too much.

Remove from heat and add the butter and stir in.

Pour all into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Add the orange slices and serve or refrigerate until the next day.

Sauce 3

This is not a thick gravy. It should be a smooth velvety sauce.

Plan to drizzle a little sauce over each stuffed quail before you roast them. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.

The Quail Ingredients

4 Quail if using as a first course, appetizer, or if your quail follows a heavier first course. Plan on 8 (2 per person if not serving a first course) You can find them frozen at most markets.

4 slices Bacon

The Quail Instructions

Pat the quail dry.

Cut them up the center of the back and open them up. This is where the stuffing will go. This is easy as they are so small and delicate. Any pair of kitchen scissors should work.

Quail stuffed 1

Stuff the inside and secure with two or three toothpicks.

Quail stuffed 2

Turn them over, breast side up, secured side down, and place them on your pan. Repeat this process with each quail.

Drizzle a spoonful of orange sauce over each quail.

Cut your bacon slices in half and fold two halves over the breast of each quail.

Take a small bit of string and tie the legs together as you see in the photo.

Quail stuffed 3

Roast the birds in a 425 degree preheated oven. for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temp to 325 and continue to roast for another 30 minutes.

If there is left over stuffing just bake it at 325 degrees a few minutes and serve a little with each bird.

I like to nest the birds in a small pool of the sauce with oranges. Bellissima!

Quail finish 1

***Another preparation which I credit to my father was to roast the birds, breast side down,  wide open without securing them at all. He simply piled the stuffing on the the open birds and topped them off with a slice of bacon. This is the way he prepared them for the photo above.  For these, you would simple roast them at 350 for 30-40 minutes! This is not as “cute” – but less labor intensive – and just as delicious!

With the lovely STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE, plan to serve a worthy wine of your choice. I like a lighter red wine with game birds. A beautiful Toscana or Barbera d’Asti would be just right!


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October: Gnocchi di Casentino

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Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi –

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

GNOCCHI DI CASENTINO are delicate and tender gnocchi from the Casentino Valley of Tuscany. They are very easy to make and are often found in a “ball” form unlike many other types that are formed by rolling in flour created a shell or cavatelli type shape. You can make them either way. They require very little cooking, as most gnocchi, and rise to the top of boiling water, ready to be plucked out in a matter of about 3 minutes.

Casentino? – The Casentino Valley in Tuscany also includes a beautiful mountain range. The mountains of this area have prevented much in the way of development and roads, thus leaving the area throughout history dating back to the Etruscans to its natural beauty. Because it was more difficult to access, it was left alone by conquerors. The result includes a gorgeous national park with all sorts of wildlife left to thrive undisturbed.

The typical sauce served with these gnocchi is a simple melted butter with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. A light tomato sauce – or Pommodoro Sauce is nice also.

This recipe makes plenty as the amount indicates, so they are the perfect candidate for FREEZING and saving for another meal. They can easily be made and frozen weeks ahead – only to be pulled out at the last minute from the freezer and dropped frozen into boiling salted water. This leaves you plenty of time to do other things to prepare for your meal – or just relax!

These are really heavenly! You will love them!



Makes enough for 2 servings for 4

Prep: about an hour

Cook: about 3-4 minutes


2 Cups Flour and 1/2 C. Flour separated

2 C. Whole Milk Ricotta

1 lb. Fresh Spinach

2 Large Eggs

Pinch Salt

1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano

1 Stick Butter

Grated Cheese to serve

Nutmeg grated to taste


Cook Spinach in  boiling water until tender – about 4-5 minutes. Drain it well and then after cooling a bit, press it between paper towels or a tea towel to get as much water out as possible. You want it to be very dry.

Now chop the spinach finely.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 1

To your food processor bowl place: 2 C. Flour, ricotta, eggs, salt, Parmigiano, and spinach. Give this mixture a few turns in the processor until it comes together. It will be sticky.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 2

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 3

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board and pull together into a ball – while adding some or all of the remaining 1/2 C. Flour as needed.

Roll balls from this dough and place them in a single layer on a floured pan or surface.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 4

If freezing for later use – place them on a sheet pan in a single layer and freeze. When frozen, place them in a plastic bag and freeze. When ready to use – keep them frozen and add them to boiling water in thirds. Do NOT thaw! Cook 1/3 at a time in the boiling water, removing to your serving plate with a slotted spoon or Spider. Drain well.

This recipe makes plenty for 2 meals for 4 people.

When ready to serve, melt a stick of butter and pour over the gnocchi in a serving plate. Sprinkle with grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi finish 1

Sprinkle with a little freshly ground nutmeg.


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September: Salsa di Noci

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Walnut Sauce – 

Noci Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Let’s put our “regional Italian cooking “ hats on and speed off to yet another extraordinary, yet sometimes neglected, region of Italy – Liguria! This region is often missed in the great attention given to Tuscany and Northern Italy etc. It is located on the northwest coast of Italy, with the port of Genoa, among the cities well known, and also is the city credited for ravioli. Of course, the fish and coastal dishes are big in this area and, in addition, this region gave birth to pesto! However, one of the signature dishes of Liguria is definitely a standout – a heavenly and creamy sauce made of walnuts – SALSA DI NOCI.

In Liguria, this sauce is most often served with pansotti, a triangular shaped ravioli. This dish originated in a small town called “San Martino di Noceto”. Noceto refers to walnut groves. The pansotti are traditionally filled with herbs and native greens which are not easily found in the US where pansotti are usually filled with cheese and spinach or some other market green. Here in our photo, you see the walnut sauce served with pasta fresca or fresh pasta in the form of a spaghetti.

The sauce is so rich and wonderful that it does not need much embellishment, when serving, beyond plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The walnuts and ricotta come together to form a sauce that is simple yet satisfying and lightly sweet. It is simply a glorious sauce.

Unfortunately, the color of the sauce along with the pasta lacks contrast and does not make for a dramatic photograph. However, the drama is all in the flavor of this elegant sauce. It is beautiful beyond words, and the Ligurians rightfully claim it as their signature dish and one so worthy.


Makes: enough sauce for over a pound of ravioli or dried or fresh pasta

Prep: about 20 minutes


1 lb. pasta or ravioli cooked

1/2 lb. Walnuts

1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (pignoli)

1 Clove Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta

1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

About a cup of pasta water (water in which you have cooked your pasta)

Extra Grated Parmigiano for serving

Fresh Parsley for garnish


Place in the bowl of your food processor: the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, parsley and Salt.

Noci 1

Process until these ingredients turn into a paste. This takes just a few minutes.

Noci 2

Add the ricotta and milk, processing to combine.

Add the olive oil in a stream as the processor is running. The results will be very thick.

Melt the butter in a pan and then add the thick contents of the food processor. Stir into the butter along with the 3 Tbsp.of Parmigiano while heating through.

Noci 4

Add the pasta water and stir in. Add more or less of the water according to your taste. The water will thin the thick sauce.

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt as desired.

Serve with extra grated cheese.

This SALSA DI NOCI is so rich that I like to pair it with a light red wine instead of the expected white. It is most often served with a white wine of the Ligurian region called Pigato. However, for me, a light red like Dolcetto seems to stand up well with the depth of this sauce without dominating it.


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August: Zucchini Agrodolce

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Zucchini finish with script

Buon giorno!

So you planted zucchini in your garden this year and now you are up to your eyeballs in green squash! Your family is tired of zucchini  – what to do? Solution: find a new and more interesting way to cook it! Italians love their zucchini – also called courgettes, and every Italian garden has it. This recipe may not be entirely new, as it is an old preparation coming from the island of Sicily, but ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE (sweet and sour) is interesting and VERY tasty. It is not your typical zucchini accompanied by tomatoes, onions, etc. This is totally different and includes some of the favorite ingredients of Sicilian recipes – pignoli (pine nuts),  golden raisins and a tiny bit of anchovies. The anchovies are very subtle in the dish. They are chopped in tiny pieces, and as in many other dishes which include them, they melt into the sauce giving it a lovely flavor. However no one sees them, or knows they are there!

Some of my family members do not care for zucchini unless it is cleverly disguised in some way. We ALL  love this, and you will love it too!


Serves: 2

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


1 Fresh Medium Zucchini

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 large Clove Garlic cut in half

1 Sprig Fresh Oregano (or a teaspoon dried)

2 1/2 Tbsp. While Wine Vinegar

2 Tbsp. Water

2 Teaspoons Sugar

3 Tbsp. Pignoli (pine nuts)

3 Tbsp. Golden Raisins

2 Anchovies – patted dry and cut into tiny pieces

Shavings of Pecorini or Provolone Cheese for garnish (you can also use grated)


Clean a medium fresh zucchini. Leave the skin on .

Zucchini 1

Cut off the ends and discard. Then cut the zucchini lengthwise in half – then again into quarters. If the pieces are large enough – cut them one more time so you have spears.

Zucchini 2

Heat the oil in a shallow pan, add the garlic and oregano, and cook a couple of minutes until the garlic is beginning to brown. Do not burn the garlic! Keep it moving in the pan. Then remove and discard the garlic. In this dish you only want its essence.

Zucchini 3

Now add the vinegar, water, and sugar. Mix in.

Now add the zucchini spears, tossing them in the pan to coat, cover the pan, and cook about 10-12 minutes at medium high. Stir occasionally .

Zucchini 4

When finished, add the pignoli, raisins, and anchovies. Toss a little, and cook a couple of minutes more at medium high, uncovered.

Zucchini 5

Taste and see if any salt is needed. Usually the anchovies take care of the need for salt. By the way, at this point, the anchovies are quite invisible.

Serve with shavings of Pecorino or Provolone or grated.

This ZUCCHINI AGRODOLCE is so delicious, you will want to make it again and again. It is just as suitable as a side for a fancy summer meal as it is for middle of the week dining with your family. Easy and quick – you will be using up your supply of garden fresh zucchini in no time!


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July: Amalfi Clams

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Simply the Best Clams Ever!

Amalfi Clams 3 with script

Buon giorno!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(la – la la – la -la…)

Serves: 2

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 16-18 minutes


2 dozen Fresh Littleneck Clams or Manila Clams

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Whole Shallot (usually a double bulb)

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

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

Dash Red Pepper flakes

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 Cup Prosecco (or Cava or Champagne)

1-2 Tsp. Sambuca (or Pernod)

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

A generous squeeze of fresh Lemon

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


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

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

Amalfi Clams 1

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

Add your clams!

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

Amalfi Clams 2

Add the parsley and quickly cover the pan.

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

Give a quick squeeze of the lemon.

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

Amalfi Clams finish with script


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June: Flatbread with Zucchini Flowers

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Flatbread finish 2 with script

Buon giorno!

I simply love flatbread! It is useful in so many ways – as a bread with dinner, as an appetizer or snack. This FLATBREAD WITH ZUCCHINI FLOWERS  is lovely to serve and really delicious. It offers another use for the beautiful Zucchini Flowers or Squash Blossoms that are in abundance right now as our zucchini plants are developing in the garden. There is nothing that makes me happier than going into the garden in the morning and picking these lovely flowers – knowing that with them, a delicious treat awaits.

zucchini-in-garden-300x225 - CopyFirst Zucchini flower 2015

This flatbread is so simple using my pizza dough recipe which is the one my mother, Loretta, always used. It is so easy to make and use. It makes several loaves which you can freeze for another time. I suggest gathering as many blossoms as you can for this flatbread. A few are fine, but the more you have, the better your flatbread will be. The secret is that these flowers are stuffed with goat cheese which offers a small explosion of goodness each time you bite into one.


Makes: one 12-14 inch flatbread

Prep: 30 minutes + time to make the dough

Bake: about 15 minutes


1 loaf of Loretta’s Pizza Dough

Several Zucchini Flowers (the more, the better)

Goat cheese

8 Oz. Fresh Mozzarella

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme or Lemon Thyme

Pinch of Dried Oregano

About a cup of Castelvetrano Olives but in half (these are the bright green Sicilian olives)

1/2 C. Grated Pecorino Cheese

Fresh Chives  – as many as you like chopped and sprinkled over the top

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Take one loaf of dough and roll or stretch it into a 12-14 inch rectangle on a sheet pan. This is not pizza so don’t worry about pizza stones etc.

Drizzle the rectangle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Flatbread 1

Grate or thinly slice the mozzarella and lay it on the top of the dough.

Sprinkle the Thyme Leaves over the cheese.

Prepare your zucchini flowers: snip off and discard the stems. Remove and discard the pistil (long thing inside the flower). Fill the flower with a lump of goat cheese and fold the petals gently around it.

Flatbread 2

Place the flowers on the flatbread. The more flowers the better!

Flatbread 3

Sprinkle the Pecorino and oregano on top.

Slice the olives in half and scatter them around the flatbread.

Flatbread 4

Follow with the fresh chives.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Flatbread 5

Add your favorite wine – you need nothing more!

( For more on Flatbread, see this post: Zucchini and Potato Flatbread)


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April: Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Sauce

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Baked Rigs Finish with script

Buon giorno!

Italians are known for their endless baked pasta ideas. It seems like everyone has one or more. This one is a little different as the sauce is made with ground lamb instead of pork, sausage, or meatballs. What’s the difference? Let’s look closely at this recipe for BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE to find out.

Begin with the lamb: Italians eat a lot of lamb especially in the spring. It is simply a tradition. Could you just as easily use ground beef in this recipe? Well…yes you could do that, but the flavor would be very different. That is what is so unique and amazing about cooking with lamb. Where you start is not necessarily where you end up. Beef cannot possibly achieve the level of flavor that you will get from the ground lamb. Before simmering the sauce has a completely different flavor. When you finish – it is a different story entirely.

The preparation: This is a simple dish – and easy to put together. It is built in layers and comes together in about 40 minutes. It is one of the more flavorful baked pasta dishes mostly because of the use of lamb instead of beef or even sausage. As almost always, I recommend using fresh herbs.

You, your family, and guests will just love it.


Serves: 4

Prep and Cook: About 40 minutes


1 lb. Rigatoni, Mezza Rigatoni ( as you see in the photos), Ziti, or Penne – cooked according to package directions

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion Chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 C. chopped baby carrots – chop into small bits

2 Stalks Celery – chop into small bits

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 lb. ground lamb

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

1 14 oz. Canned Tomatoes – crushed or blended slightly

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

1/2 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

10 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – cubed

Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish


Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and herbs in the olive oil for about 5 minutes at med. high heat.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 1

Add the ground lamb to the pan and brown – about another 5 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan and cook another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes and add the salt and pepper.

Then cook about 15 minutes more.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 2

When finished remove from the heat and let sit a minute to cool. Then add the cream and stir in until blended.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 3

Add the sauce to the pasta and pour into a 15 x 9 inch rectangular baking dish.

Sprinkle on the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix in.

Distribute the mozzarella cubes around the pan and gently mix in.

Baked Rigs - Lamb 4

Baked Rigs - Lamb 5

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and “oozy”.

Garnish with Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley and serve!

*For an interesting addition – try adding a small scoop of warm ricotta cheese, flavored with a little grated Parmigiano, black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley an on each serving.

I like a lovely Barbera D’Alba with this BAKED RIGATONI WITH LAMB SAUCE.


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February: Cannellini Bean Salad with Rosemary Focaccia Croutons

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Bean Salad Finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

I often tout the qualities of beans in my posts. I also like to mention the importance of beans in Italian cooking. The simplicity of ingredients in Italian cooking makes it the perfect cuisine for beans to shine. In fact, I can’t even imagine Italian cuisine without frequent use of them. Often you’ll see them front and center as the main course rather than as a side dish. Here you see them as the main ingredient in a seemingly simple and rustic CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH FOCACCIA CROUTONS. One bite of this amazing dish and you’ll see why I have given it Recipe of the Month status. The flavor in the dish is complex with the herbs giving it an earthy essence. The Lemon Dressing adds another level of flavor without overpowering the ingredients cooked into the beans.

This salad is so hearty and tasty that you can serve it as your main course as well as a side or salad. It calls for some prosciutto, but vegetarians would be just as happy with this beautiful salad by omitting the meat.  You are welcome to use dried beans which require a long cooking time, but this dish makes up well using the canned cannellini beans requiring much less time. You can make it ahead and refrigerate, but the croutons should NOT be added until you serve so that they won’t get soft.

This post is kind of a “twofer” in that you also get Focaccia and an interesting use for it in the croutons. The ROSEMARY FOCACCIA fills your kitchen with a lovely aroma. You’ll make your croutons and be happy for the leftover to eat with your meal or fried with eggs the next morning. Oh – what could be better than this?!

As an Italian, I love using all kinds of beans in cooking. However, when you make this salad, you’ll see why it is a BIG FAVORITE for me.

Bean Salad Finish 2 with script



Makes: 1  9 x 13 loaf

Prep: 3 hours

Cook: 12-15 minutes


1 C. lukewarm water

1 package Active Dry Yeast

1 1/2 Tsp. Honey

2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour divided 1 C. and 1 1/2 C.

1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tsp. Kosher Salt

3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves + a little more for top

Coarse Salt for top of bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling


Mix the cup of water with the yeast and honey. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then add 1 cup of flour and the 1/4 C. oil. Mix together with a spoon and let it sit another 5 minutes.

Now add the 1 1/2 C. Flour, salt, and Rosemary.

Mix together with clean hands and knead just a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little flour if sticky.

Rosemary Focaccia dough

Set the ball in an oiled bowl and rub the outside of the dough with the oil on your hands.

Cover and let rise in a warm place about an hour and a half.

Place the dough in an oiled pan 13 x 9 and stretch it to fit the inside of the pan. Push on it with your fingers and just keep working it into the rectangular shape to fill it. Put a little flour on your fingers if sticky. Then dimple the dough with a floured finger (making dents with your fingers)

Put it aside, covered loosely with a warm towel, in a warm place to rise again in the pan for about another 30 minutes. The 2nd rise will not be as great as the first.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and some Rosemary.

Bake in a 450 oven for about 12-15 minutes until the top is golden.

Rosemary Focaccia finish with script

Drizzle again with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let the focaccia cool – then cut into the amount of croutons you’d like to use. Slice the rest to eat or freeze. The croutons freeze well also.

Focaccia Croutons


Prep: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6


3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove – chopped finely

1/2 Onion – chopped

1 C. Chopped Prosciutto

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tsp. Dried Oregano

2 Cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 Bay Leaf

1 1/2 C. Chicken Broth

2 C. Fresh Arugula

Lemon Dressing (see recipe below)

Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

Focaccia Croutons


Cook the onion, garlic, prosciutto, red pepper, and oregano in the oil on Medium High for a couple of minutes.

Bean Salad 1

Add the beans, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Bean Salad 3

Drain and discard liquid along with the Bay Leaf.

Add the arugula to the beans, and toss gently.

Bean Salad 5

Add the lemon dressing to the arugula and beans, and toss again gently.

Garnish with Focaccia Croutons and Cheese shavings.

(Note: if you make the salad ahead, do not add the croutons until serving time – so they won’t soften.)



1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use a nice one for this

1 Tbsp. Wine Vinegar

1/4 C. Fresh Lemon Juice

Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste – use enough salt to bring out the flavors!


Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside for the salad.

Bean Salad 4

This CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH ROSEMARY FOCACCIA CROUTONS is so lovely, it will be a favorite year round. It has so much flavor and interest and is a perfect choice for lent, summer dining on the patio, or anytime! Taste it, and you will see why it is the Recipe of the Month!


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January: Porchetta

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Porchetta finish with glaze with script

Buon giorno!

New Year’s Day is one for treading softly and speaking in muted tones in deference to those who might not be able to process shouting from the rooftops after a night of too much.. well.. everything. Since I am not the type of celebrator who needs coddling on this day – I may get a little, shall we say, enthusiastic in tone here , so you may want to protect your tender ears for a moment. Actually, I can’t shout loudly enough about this one and my family would back me up on my exuberance for this recipe. PORCHETTA is a divine dish to serve and enjoy. It makes a beautiful presentation for not a lot of effort — just a little time!

What is PORCHETTA exactly? This is an Italian rolled boneless pork preparation which in its purest form requires a HUGE process which includes gutting the pig, rolling, stuffing, spicing, and covering with belly fat etc and accompanied by a long roasting time.  It is a most flavorful preparation and makes absolutely incredible sandwiches.

Origins? The region of Lazio, where Rome is located, is given credit for the beginnings of this amazing pork preparation. However, you can easily find PORCHETTA in most other regions of Italy with variations depending upon area.

Are we REALLY going to gut a pig?? Uh, no!

My PORCHETTA is much easier. In fact, you will love making and serving this one so much, it will become a regular favorite for you, your family, and your amazed guests! This makes a spectacular holiday dish or one for a special dinner party.

I love using pork tenderloins from Circle B Ranch – humanely raised natural Berkshire Pork. They ship and there really is a difference in their extraordinary pork products – so much flavor – just the right amount of fat.

Let’s get to the pig!


Makes: about 8 thickly cut slices usually serving 4

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes


One 1-1 1/3 lb. Pork Tenderloin, patted dry with paper towels

Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper

1 lb. Loose Italian Sausage (out of the casings) and browned in a pan

1 8 oz. Jar Fig Jam or Preserves (found often in the cheese section) or Apricot Preserves

1 Jar Roasted Red Peppers ( or roast your own), patted dry with paper towels

Whole fresh Basil leaves

8 oz. Fresh or Smoked Mozzarella, sliced thinly

Good quality bacon

Butcher’s twine or string

Fresh stalks of Rosemary

Saba or Balsamic Glaze for drizzling to serve


Porchetta 1

Begin by butterflying your pork tenderloin with a sharp knife. This is easier than you think, but if you must – ask your butcher to do it for you. To butterfly, slide your knife through the meat vertically down the side about 1/2 way through – not all the way. Open the meat so you now see the inside.Then take your knife and make another vertical cut all the way down the side of the meat on one of the thick sides not all the way through. You will actually watch the meat open up further. Repeat this again until the meat is fully opened and about 1/2 inch thick.

Then using a meat mallet or heavy can of tomatoes, pound the meat so it is thin and flatter.

Porchetta 3

Salt and pepper the inside. Then spread the inside with the fig preserves.

Porchetta 4

Line the inside over the preserves with the Basil Leaves.

Porchetta 5

Follow with the cooked sausage that has been drained and patted a little after browning.

Porchetta 2

Add the roasted peppers.

Porchetta 6

Then add the slices of mozzarella.

Porchetta 7

Now with the meat in front of you horizontally, carefully roll it forward onto itself, pushing the stuffing in with your fingers until it is completely rolled. It takes usually just one or two rolls as it is pretty full. Tuck in the two ends to try to cover the stuffing.

Porchetta rolled

Cover the roll with bacon slices, tucking the extra underneath.

Porchetta 9

Cut several lengths of the string – about 8 inches each. Taking one string at a time, slide it under the roll and tie it at several intervals down the roll. You can even do one long vertical tie at the end to secure it.(Can refrigerate several hours)

Porchetta 11

Place stalks of rosemary over the top of the roll and place it in an oiled pan in a 450 degree oven.

Porchetta 13

Cook until a meat thermometer registers about 150 degrees. (The time depends on your oven – approximately 30 minutes) Remove from oven and let it rest about 15 minutes. Cut the strings off the roll and discard them.

Porchetta finish without glaze with script

Slice the roll thickly and serve one or two slices to each person, drizzled with Saba or Balsamic Glaze. (Saba is a wonderful Balsamic-like liquid made totally from grapes reduced to “must”. It is valued much like a long aged Balsamic Vinegar and used in much the same way.)

You might want to make two and freeze one!


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December: Zuppa di Pesce

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Seafood Stew Buon Natale

Buon giorno!

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

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

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

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

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


Serves: about 6


1/2 C. Olive Oil

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

1 Large Onion – sliced thinly

1 Large (or 2 Medium) Fennel Bulb – sliced

3 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled – cut up

2 Stalks Celery – chopped coarsely

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

2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano – chopped

1/2 C. Fresh Italian Parsley – chopped

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

3 Tbsp. Pernod or Sambuca

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

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

4 Cups Seafood Stock or Clam Juice

Salt and Pepper to taste


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

1 lb. Fresh Cod – cut into large pieces

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

2 lb. Very Large Shrimp – cleaned and peeled

1 lb. Sea Scallops – cut in half or horizontally

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


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

Seafood stew 1

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

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

Seafood Stew 2

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

Seafood Stew 3

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

Then remove and clams that have not opened and discard.

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

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

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

Add the clams back to the pot.

Taste for seasoning – adding salt and pepper as needed.

Seafood Stew 4 with script

Serve with the garnish below.


Fresh Lemon Wedges

Lots of fresh chopped Italian Parsley

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

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


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November: Chicken Scarpariello

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7 Ready to simmer

Buon giorno!

Chicken what??? Say it with me slowwwly – CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO. You know that saying “it tastes like chicken”? Well, this is a chicken dish that does NOT taste like chicken. Instead, it is an explosion of several different flavors happening all at once. It is one of those really splendid taste experiences where you are not sure what to comment on first. It may not taste like chicken, but it certainly tastes like something wonderful has just happened in your mouth with every bite. It is a fabulous twist on the traditional sausage and peppers that is so much more. Just look at it – Oh the colors –  this is a gorgeous dish!

CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO is a dish with seemingly no definite origins. No one seems to know where it came from. It smacks of Southern Italy in some ways but my guess is that it is one of those Italian American dishes that just appeared and evolved. Scarpa means shoe in Italian. The name Scarpariello  means in the style of the shoemaker. Go figure!

Some like to call it a great Sunday Supper dish. It is definitely that – but to reserve it only for that day would neglect all of those other days when it would be just as welcome.

It is simple to make – but has a definite set of ingredients which make it the authentic dish. Of course, the chicken, but also, the red pepper, the pickled peppers (I like Peppadews!), fresh garlic, broth, and fresh herbs. Some recipes deviate a little by adding or omitting the following: white wine, fresh lemon juice, and mushrooms. It is perfectly fine to use breast meat if you like, but the thighs are soooo tender in this and give the impression of the traditional Piemontese rabbit dishes for which the the Northern Italians are so famous.

You can serve it on its own with lots of Italian bread or over pasta, polenta, or over mashed potatoes as you see it here.

However it got started, and no matter how or when you serve it – you will love this one and want to make it a part of your family tradition or a great meal to introduce to your friends.

COLOR rules the day with this dish! Can you resist?


Serves: 4

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes


8 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs ( I like thighs best for this!)

Salt and Pepper

Flour for dredging

1/3 C. Olive Oil

4 Links Italian Sausage ( cut into pieces)

5 Whole Garlic Cloves

1 Medium Fresh Red Pepper – cut into  pieces

6 Peppadews or Pickled type peppers – cut into strips ( I like a combo of orange and red ones) They are sweet South African peppers that can be found in jars or in olive bars at most grocers.

1/2 lb. Mushrooms ( I like the wild ones!)

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

5 Fresh Sage Leaves

1 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves

1 Long Fresh Rosemary Sprig

2 C. Chicken Broth

Juice of a fresh Lemon

2 Tbsp. Butter


Add some salt and pepper to the flour and mix. Dredge the chicken thighs in this flour.

1 Dredging chicken

Brown the thighs in the olive oil – adding more if needed. Then remove the thighs to a platter and set aside.

2 Dredging chicken

Add the sausage pieces to the same pan, brown them, and add them to the platter with the chicken.

3 Sausage browning

A look at Peppadews – sweet and luscious –  for those unfamiliar and the next group of ingredients to include.

4 Peppadews

5 Ingredients for chicken

Back in the pan, add the garlic cloves, red pepper, Peppadews, and mushrooms – Cook for about 5 minutes.

6 cooking vegs

The color begins to emerge!

Add the wine to the pan and de-glaze about 3 minutes at a good simmer.

Add the chicken and sausage back to the pan and add the sage, rosemary, broth, and lemon juice. A gorgeous display of color has appropriated your pan!! Stir.

7 Ready to simmer

Heat until bubbling. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes – then uncover and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter – melt in.

Remove the garlic cloves, if you like.

How to serve your CHICKEN SCARPARIELLO? Serve it straight up on its own with plenty of Italian crusty bread OR serve it over mashed potatoes as you see in the photo.

Scarpariello Finish with Script

Another great way to present this dish is over polenta for a meal with a Northern Italian edge. Of course, it is always delicious over a pasta like Cappellini. However you do it – you will love this dish for the ease of prep and the extraordinary flavor!


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October: Risotto With Seafood Sauce

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Risotto Seafood finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

There is nothing better than an Italian Seafood Sauce well prepared. It has so many uses – risotto, pasta etc. Today’s RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE is a great representation of the Italian Seafood Sauce at its very best – prepared with fresh clams, shrimp, and crab.

Often you will see this sauce as “alla scoglio” which means of the rocks or in the style of the rocks. This refers to the use of seafood which lives in the rocks of the Mediterranean – clams, shrimp, crab, and sometimes mussels, crab, or lobster. This sauce preparation is found throughout the coastal areas of Italy – claimed by the North and the South.

As always – good ingredients wins the day with this sauce – fresh clams, crab, and shrimp and fresh herbs!

The sauce captures the essence of the sea in the “creatures” you choose to put into it. The aroma is distinctively Mediterranean. When you prepare it, you may even want to play the songs of the coastal fishermen in the background for extra ambience. You know the ones – “Santa Lucia”, “Torna a Surriento”, “Vieni Sul Mar”…

My father, Attilio, would often sing as he cooked. He sang the traditional songs of Italy and seemed to choose them according to what he prepared. I can still hear him..

“Vide’o mare quant’ e bello, spira tantu sentimento…”


Seafood sauce with script

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes


2 Cloves Fresh Garlic

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano Tomatoes ( this is a type of tomato, not a brand – the very best)

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley Chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Basil

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2 Cup Clam juice

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

1 lb. Cleaned Shrimp, shells removed

2 Dozen Littleneck Clams, shells scrubbed

8 Oz. Lump Crabmeat (Lump or Jumbo Lump is best)


Cook the garlic in the oil a minute – do not burn!

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, clam juice and wine.

Cook at medium to medium high bubbling until much of the liquid cooks off – about 30 minutes.

Add shrimp and clams  –  cook about 10 minutes or a couple of minutes more until all shells have opened. Discard any clams that do not open.

Risotto with Seafood Sauce

Seafood sauce


Risotto for seafood sauce

Serves: 4

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes approx.


2 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice

3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

6 Cups Liquid: 5 Cups chicken broth, 1 cup Clam Juice

Pinch of Saffron Threads

2 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 C. Parmigiano-Reggiano Grated

Fresh Basil for garnish


Warm your broth and clam juice and add the saffron threads to the liquid, crushing them with your fingers a little before adding.

Melt butter in oil, and add the onion and stir, cooking at medium high about 5 minutes.

Add rice to the pan. Stir the rice and coat well – cooking for about 5 minutes.

Now add the wine, stir and let it cook down.

Continuing at medium high heat, add about a cup of the warm broth and clam juice with the saffron to the pan and continue to stir. When most of the liquid is gone add another  1/2 cup and stir. Continue adding the liquid by the same amount until you use all of it, slowly stirring as you add. Once the liquid is gone and cooks into the rice, it should be done.

Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and then the cheese. The risotto is ready and should be a beautiful golden color from the saffron threads.

TO SERVE: Spoon some of the hot sauce over each bowl of risotto along with some clams and shrimp. Top with some of the Lump Crab and fresh basil.

There is no better pairing with RISOTTO WITH SEAFOOD SAUCE than a crisp Terradora di Paolo Falanghina from Campania – an Italian white wine that was just made for seafood! “Vieni sul mar…”


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September: Meatballs

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Don’t Mess With the Meatballs!

Meatball finish with script

Buon giorno!

So I am finally getting around to the simplest example of Italian cooking –  MEATBALLS. I like to call them the “Scarlet Pimpernell” of Italian cuisine – you remember: “ they seek him here, they seek him there… that damned elusive Pimpernell”. Meatballs are pretty much everywhere, but are rather elusive as it’s hard to find a really good one. Everyone has a recipe. People go to amazing lengths to jazz them up – complicate them – put their singular stamp on them. Truth is – there is no need to go to such lengths and most of them fail.

My trusty author-friend, Marcia Mayo (now Guiendon), a word wizard, and I were talking about meatballs at dinner the other night. I told her that for such a very simple thing, it was amazing how often they are bastardized especially by the American public in an effort to “get cute”  – be different – fill them full of things  etc. I said I should write about this. Agreeing, she recommended that I call my blog post “Don’t Mess With the Meatballs!”  So here we are – for all the folks who have asked for them.

In my life experience, the very finest meatballs were found right in my mother, Loretta’s, kitchen. If she were here, she would undoubtedly repeat one of her favorite lines, “Don’t be stupid!” She would not think the subject worthy of my time writing about it as they are so easy, so simple, that they couldn’t be such a big deal. Although, if she had any of the meatballs I have had lately, she might get it.

Loretta made her meatballs so simply and never by recipe. I watched her so many times, I have lost count. She always used the same few ingredients and counseled me in the same way on a couple of tips:

1. Always use an even mixture of ground beef chuck, pork, and veal.

2. Use your clean hands to mix the ingredients.

3.Don’t overwork the meat – don’t over mix as it toughens the meatball. Just pull the ingredients together gently and roll.

4. Always use fresh garlic and fresh Italian parsley.

5. Use fresh breadcrumbs – preferably from Italian bread at least a day old.

6. Wet your hands to roll the balls.

7. Fry them for best flavor and moistness.

I highly recommend the old KISS Method for meatballs. You know: “keep it simple stupid!” It just doesn’t get any easier.

If looking for a good Sunday Sauce for these meatballs – try my PORK RAGU!

Loretta, this one’s for you!


Makes: 14-15 Large meatballs

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 8-10 minutes


2 lb. Ground beef, pork, and veal in fairly equal parts

2 C. Fresh Breadcrumbs

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic chopped finely

1/3 C. Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

2/3 C. Grated Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Aged Provolone

1 Tsp. Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Eggs

If you are Sicilian – 1/4 C. Currants – Loretta would NOT like this!

Olive Oil for frying


See the meatball tips above in the text!!

If you can’t find the mix of ground meats, ask any butcher to grind it for you. It is traditionally the mixture for good meatloaf.

Make your own breadcrumbs by putting the bread in the food processor or blender and pulse to create the breadcrumbs.

Add to the meat mixture, the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper and mix together with your hands. ( Add the currants if using) Don’t over mix – just pull it together. Over mixing toughens the meat.

Meatballs 1

Crack two eggs and add to the mixture. Mix together gently with your clean hands – just to moisten.

Meatballs 2

Clean your hands and wet them to roll the meatballs. Repeat wetting them if needed. You can roll any size you need – large or small for soup or lasagna.

Meatballs 3

Now you can fry them in olive oil as I recommend or bake them at 350 degrees. If you fry – they will be more moist. If you bake, be careful not to over cook as they will be hard – not more than 12 minutes – then finish in sauce.

Meatballs 5

For frying – brown them on all sides. Keep them moving in the oil for just a few minutes (about 6 min. depending on the heat) and then place them in your sauce to cook completely. If you want to – after browning you can bake them at 350 for about 5 minutes but you don’t have to if using them in sauce. You can also freeze them.

MEATBALLS are the Italians’ gift to the world. If kept simple and unembellished, they are heavenly. Try my recipe for Pork Ragu – the Sunday Sauce for finishing your meatballs. Open a lovely Chianti Classico to enjoy with them.


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August: Pesto Potatoes

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Pesto Potatoes finish with script

Buon giorno!

They say that in the coastal areas of the region of Liguria, the aroma of pesto permeates the air. This is not the same pesto that you see in the jars at your grocer – far from it! Many who say they do not care for it, have only this rather pathetic version in the jar from which to draw reference. Instead, this is the real thing, made from fresh picked herbs, fresh garlic, nuts (more traditionally pignoli) and the best extra virgin olive oil.

Now THIS is pesto!

Pesto Potatoes 3 with script

Your kitchen will smell like Liguria when you make PESTO POTATOES. This delicious dish, charged with immense flavor, is a beautiful accompaniment to any grilled meat, poultry, or fish.

In Liguria, most people grow their own basil. These days many of us here in the US grow our own as well. Fortunately, in more recent times, it is now always available at our local markets. So we can enjoy this amazing aromatic fresh herb all year round. Pesto can be ours at any time, just as in Liguria, anytime we want to make it. The wonderful thing about it is that it is soooo easy. If you have a few fresh ingredients and a blender – you can make your own! Dine like a true Ligurian, and prepare their signature green sauce for your own “Italian table!”.

PESTO POTATOES are fun to serve. Not only do they taste great ,but also this potato dish makes a beautiful presentation on your table. The potatoes bathe in the beautiful green sauce and more color pops through with the addition of sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes also contribute a touch of sweetness brightening this largely savory dish.

These potatoes will disappear quickly! Serve them at your next grilling extravaganza!


Makes: 1 1/2-2 lb. potatoes

Prep: 30 minutes


1 1/2-2 lb. Small White Potatoes – skins on – cooked

2 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Large Clove Fresh Garlic

3/4 C. Toasted Walnuts

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

3/4 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

2/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil – chopped small

Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish


Cook your potatoes and then slice them in half – or leave them whole if they are especially small.

Place the basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, grated cheese, salt and pepper in a blender.

Pesto Potatoes 1

Run your blender while adding all of your oil slowly through the top in a stream as the mixture becomes a smooth paste. It will become a beautiful green color.

Pesto Potatoes 2

If it seems too dry – add more oil.

Taste for seasoning. It is important to add enough salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of this sauce.

Pour this pesto sauce over the cooked potatoes and gently toss.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and toss again.

Pesto Potatoes 5

Garnish with shavings of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve at room temperature.


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July: Mac and Cheese Italian Style

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Mac - finish with script

Buon giorno!

OK – Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. Usually the opposite is the case – can’t get enough of it – want it every day – can’t resist it when it is served. This one will get the attention of the all who love the cheesy oozy comforting goodness of this classic dish. Only this time – we’re giving it that Italian “edge” with MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE! If you can resist this one – Calabrisi does not end with an “I”!


We’re taking a slightly different turn with this though. It is not the orange colored mac and cheese we are so used to seeing from those… boxes. I make this with all kinds of short pastas – you choose! It is great with gnocchi as well. This recipe uses Fontina – the Italian melting cheese with the nutty flavor – that will take care of the OOZY. We add White Cheddar for the CHEESY. The Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago is there.. well, because why in the world wouldn’t we want it there??? The wine gives it that hint of loveliness, and we get touch of sweet from the butternut squash. You get the idea! We add one flavor level after another – until we hit the max… and then… we add (optional but incredible) seafood – lobster or shrimp. We have just cracked the ceiling of culinary heaven!


As if that is not enough – those who look for that something extra which makes this a truly distinctive and complex dish will finish with a “touch” of White Truffle Oil – oh YEAH!! Actually, I probably had you at Fontina – but gilding the lily is just, well, fun. So why not go for it. I think I can actually sense some palpitations here and with good reason. This is a VERY special dish!


Serves: 6-8

Prep: 35 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes


1 lb. Short pasta or gnocchi – cooked

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 C. Chopped Pancetta – chops easier if partially frozen!

1 Medium Onion – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

2 Tbsp. Flour

3/4 C. White Wine or Dry Vermouth

2 C. Half and Half or heavy cream – warmed

1 C. Grated Fontina

1 C. Grated Sharp White Cheddar

1/2 C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese

1/2 C. Sliced Black Olives

1/2 C. Chopped Fresh Basil

2 C. Chopped Fresh Butternut Squash

1/2 C. Sliced almonds

1 C. Fresh White Breadcrumbs (not dried)

Drizzle of White Truffle Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

OPTIONAL BUT AMAZING: 1 lb. Cooked Lobster Meat or 1 lb. Cooked Shrimp


Roast the Butternut Squash tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Set aside.

1 Roasted Butternut Squash

Cook pancetta in oil and butter until just crisp.

Add onion and cook until tender.

2 Mac and Cheese

Add garlic and cook another minute – do not burn garlic!!

Add the flour and, stirring, cook the rawness out for a couple of minutes.

3 Mac and Cheese

Add the wine – cook a couple of minutes at medium high. It will thicken.

5 Mac and Cheese

Reduce heat a little and add the cream, stirring until it thickens again.

6 Mac and Cheese

Add the cheeses and melt in, stirring. Taste for seasoning. I like freshly ground pepper and Kosher salt.

7 Mac and Cheese

Add the olives, basil, squash and seafood, if using. Stir in.

8 Mac and Cheese

Toss the pasta with this sauce fully incorporating it. Use ALL of the sauce as you want it very “saucy and cheesy”.

Pour into a buttered baking pan or individual baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and sliced almonds.

9 Mac and Cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pop under the broiler  for a minute if it is not golden brown on top from baking.

Drizzle with the white truffle oil – just a bit as a little goes a LONG way with this pretty amazing addition! — or drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serve your MAC AND CHEESE ITALIAN STYLE as a main course or as a side at your next grilling event. Prepare for raves on this one!!! Take your bow and…


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



Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography


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