Back to basics and it tastes so good!

Stuffed Shells – Meat & Cheese

italian stuffed shells recipe Here is a cute little rendition on lasagna which tends to get less soggy and just looks more fun! Plus, in one batch you can support the vegetarians as well as the meat lovers – as we do here. We made two versions of stuffed shells – one is more traditional and ricotta based, while the second is a meat version sans ricotta. Nonna always has both version available since my dad, sister and a few aunts/uncles aren’t ricotta fans (I know what you’re thinking – how could they turn away this soft and beautiful cheese?!). We made these with our homemade tomato sauce, but you can definitely use any one you prefer. Or, if you’re looking to be a little more authentic you can try it with our jarred tomatoes recipe here. Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Burn It!

La Pastita Italian Rice Pie Not exactly the advice I’m usually given when learning my family’s recipes. However, with this Easter-time favorite I spoke to not only Nonna, but also my dad, Aunt Anna and Uncle John – all four of which gave me the exact same reminder: “Don’t forget to burn it!” 

I’m talking about La Pastiera di Riso (Rice Pie), or, as they call in in my family’s hometown of Arbusti – La Pastita.  Continue reading

Sunday Dinner with the Other Grandma

IMG_9804My love obsession with “Nonna” doesn’t end with my own two wonderful grandmothers. This weekend Sebastian’s grandmother Ofelia was in town from Colombia so I invited her (and the entire family who lives close enough) over for a traditional Italian Sunday meal, “Grandma Style.” I have to start by giving credit where credit is due; my father created the menu and I simply followed the steps. However, the menu was a big win so I want to share it with all of you. Its signature was that it came full circle. We began and ended with the same flavors, tying the entire menu together seamlessly. Being that this was a multi-dish meal (6, or 7 courses, but who’s counting?) I will first describe the menu and its plates. All of the recipes will follow. 

We welcomed everyone with traditional Italian antipasti (course 1). These are Italian appetizers for “picking.” Since there was a lot to prepare, I did purchase some of these at our local Italian market, however you can make each yourself as well. The antipasti included: sliced, fresh mozzarella, dry sausage, prosciutto di parma, provolone, olives, mushrooms in vinegar, eggplant in vinegar, roasted peppers, Grisini breadsticks and pepperoni Stromboli.  Continue reading

Pizza Series Numero 2: Classic Pizza Margherita

Margherita Pizza When deciding to develop a “Pizza Series” in honor of National Pizza Month I immediately started thinking of all the unique pizza flavors I’ve enjoyed down in Nonna’s basement. She has pretty much tried anything from fresh garden veggies to rustic favorites, stuffed, rolled, flipped or flat. And in this series I will share some of those recipes with you. However, I feel it would be remiss of me to exclude the all-time classic Margherita into the mix. Did you know this pizza dates back to the late 1880s when Queen Margherita of Savoy (consort of Italy) was visiting Naples shortly after Italy’s unification? According to popular tradition, a Neapolitan pizzamaker and his wife created this pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). They named it after the Queen and it has remained a cultural icon ever since. (Yes, Uncle Tony, you’re right – everything great did begin in Napoli!)  Continue reading

Pizza Series Numero 1: Fresh, Homemade Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough Mastroianni There is something very honest and raw about kneading dough. Taking, essentially, flour and water and turning them into something substantial. Something that will rise to the occasion. The technique Nonna uses when she works on the dough is so strong and tough, yet so loving and gentle. She appreciates every part of the dough-making process and I think it’s because it takes her back. Back to their hillside village in Italy. Back when she was young and lived at home in Arbusti with four younger brothers. Back to when they used to make bread just once a week over fire in a brick oven. Back to when it was a luxury to have fresh bread. Back to when that dough symbolized life and love. 

Today Nonna and I begin the process using a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. It’s 2014 and we have this to make our lives easier, right? It does do the job, but eventually, before it’s done, Nonna has to remove the dough from the mixing bowl and finish the rest by hand. With each strike and push I feel she is breathing love into the dough. I’m getting so excited as I watch her, in all her glory, turn these simple ingredients into something beautiful. And just when I think it’s ready she does something else. Continue reading