Tuesday, October 17, 2017

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP - Zuppa di Funghi

Cool evenings are perfect for this wild mushroom soup. The addition of Marsala wine adds a wonderful flavor to the soup. Marsala wine is a fortified wine named for the city in Sicily. This can be served as a first course in smaller bowls or as a main entree with a salad or panino. 

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 oz dried portabella mushrooms
3 T avocado oil
3 T unsalted butter
1 lb wild mixed mushrooms (oyster, chanterelle, cremini) wiped clean and sliced
2 cipollini onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 shallots, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T flour
2 t finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Marsala wine
2 quarts chicken stock or broth
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Italian bread, sliced and grilled or fried with a little extra-light olive oil
White truffle oil, for drizzling (optional)

Place the dried porcini and portabella mushrooms in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover; set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat.
Add the wild mushrooms and cook until golden and their liquid has evaporate, about 20 minutes.
Remove the porcini mushrooms from the liquid, chop, and add to the pot. Save the liquid.
Add the cipollini onions and shallots and sauté another 10 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Sprinkle flour into pot and cook, while constantly stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the thyme and bay leaves.

Add the wine to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon.

Strain the porcini and portabella liquid through a fine mesh strainer and add to the pot.
Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Before serving, remove bay leaves and stir in the chopped parsley.

Ladle into soup bowls, add a slice or two of the Italian bread, sprinkle with grated cheese and a little drizzle of truffle oil, if desire.

Serves 4


This is Elisabeth, aka "Mamaw" in her kitchen in Richmond, Virginia, stirring the salted pasta water. She was always in her kitchen cooking. She was raised in Little Italy, New York City before moving to Portsmouth, Virginia. She met Ernesto Noviello who was from Montefalcione, Italy in Portsmouth, Virginia. They were married on the 26th of October 1919. I took this photo back in the mid 1970s and told her to stir something. She stirred the boiling pasta water. Ernesto changed his name to Ernest Novello.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


This recipe is similar to the recipe in my Italian cookbook. I changed it sightly by adding a tomato-wine sauce.

2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
½ t sea salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
2 T unsalted butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 T avocado oil, divided
4 bell peppers, various colors, seeded and sliced
1 large yellow onion, cut in half and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
4 good quality Italian sausages, hot or mild
1 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and chicken stock to a boil, then add the sea salt.
Add the polenta to the saucepan in a gentle stream, whisking as you pour.
Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from sticking.
Remove from stove, add the butter and grated Parmigiano cheese
Set aside with a lid to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the peppers, and onion and cook for 7 to 8 minutes; stirring often.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute.
Spoon mixture into a bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, add the other tablespoon of oil and over medium heat, cook the sausages for 10 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.
Add the oregano, tomato paste, wine, and water.
Cook another 10 minutes.
Add the cooked peppers and onion and simmer another 10 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon over polenta and serve with additional Parmigiano cheese, if desired.

Serves 4

Monday, October 9, 2017


My husband absolutely loves this one pot meal. It is an excellent autumn dish to serve for your family or guests. The bread gets so crispy but moist and delicious on the inside.

1 cup Italian or sourdough bread, chopped into bite size pieces

4 whole chicken legs
4 slices applewood or peppered bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Yukon Gold potatoes or 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium red onion or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 cremini mushrooms, cleaned, ends trimmed, left whole or cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
4 sprigs oregano, leaves removed
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
¼ t red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, add the chicken legs.
Scatter the bacon around and on top of the chicken.

In a large bowl, combine the chopped bread, potatoes, onion, mushrooms, garlic, butter, oil, oregano leaves, thyme leaves, and red pepper flakes.
Toss to combine and pour over and around chicken legs.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bake 45 minutes, or until chicken registers, in thickest part of thigh, 165 degrees F.

Serves 4

Saturday, October 7, 2017


You can use any pasta that you like in this recipe. Frutti di mare is a popular multi-seafood dish from the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Frutti di mare means 'fruit of the sea' and can include all types of seafood, including mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari. You can adjust the heat by adding less red pepper flakes and if there is a seafood you do not like, leave it out. This is sure to please a seafood lover.

1 recipe for Marinara Sauce, or your favorite store bought 

1 cup dry white wine
20 mussels
20 little neck or manila clams

1 T unsalted butter                                       
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil                             
1 large shallot, diced                                                 
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                
1 cup dry white wine                                          
2 ladles of the marinara sauce
1 t red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 large shrimp, peeled and tails removed
10 calamari rings with some tentacles

½ lb pappardelle or fettucine pasta
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley

Scrub clams and mussels under cold running water and place in a bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
Remove from refrigerator and add cold water to the bowl to purge the shellfish. 
Drain water from bowl before steaming. If your mussels have beards, do not remove the beards until just before cooking them, or they will begin to die.

In a saucepan over medium heat, add wine, drained mussels, and clams.
Cover and slowly boil for 5 to 6 minutes, until the mussels and clams have opened. 

While shellfish are steaming, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 to 9 minutes. When finished cooking, pour drained pasta back into the pot. Add a little of the sauce and mix to combine.

While pasta is cooking, add butter and oil to a skillet, over medium heat.
Add diced shallot, and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the wine, Marinara Sauce, and red pepper flakes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the broth from the pan with the clams and mussels into a glass pitcher.
Add 1 cup of the juice to the sauce in the skillet.
Add the shrimp and calamari and let simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until shrimp are pink.

Divide pasta between 2 warm pasta bowls.
Pour the seafood and sauce evenly over the pasta.

Garnish with chopped basil and parsley.

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a primi piatti.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Canning your own tomatoes is so rewarding. I actually had enough Roma tomatoes to make a total of 8 quart jars. That should keep me supplied in tomatoes for my Italian recipes through the autumn months. I have a total of 4 Roma tomato plants and 14 other tomato plants. I am still getting ripe ones off the vine and it's the end of September now.

4 to 5 quart size jars
80 to 85 medium size Roma (plum) tomatoes
4 to 5 cloves garlic, 
16 to 20 large basil leaves
2 to 2 ½ t sea salt

Cut an “X” on the bottom of each tomato.
Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil.
Boil potatoes, in batches, for one minute and remove to a bowl of ice water, using a large spider or slotted spoon.
Place a strainer over a medium size bowl and peel skin from tomatoes over strainer, to catch the liquid.
Cut tomatoes in half and remove the hard center cores.
Add a basil leaf to the bottom of each jar.
Pack in tomatoes and press down to release air with a wooden spoon handle.
Add a clove of garlic and 3 more basil leaves with some of the reserved tomato juice to within ½ inch of the rim.
Add ½ t salt to each jar, wipe the rim with a clean paper towel and add the lids.

Process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.
Remove and let cool, then adjust lids to tighten and let cool completely.

Store in a cool dark pantry.


Marie Noviello Casazza, Ted Casazza, and Sister, Gloria Casazza