Monday, February 29, 2016


My last summer of camp was when I was 12 years old. My mom packed a bag of Fig Newtons in my suitcase. I really didn't like them but I loved the movie "The Parent Trap" with Haley Mills. She shared her Fig Newtons with her fellow campers, so I wanted to be like her character in the movie. This recipe does not taste like the old figs I remember and is a delicious way to serve fresh figs. There are a lot of recipes out there with the combination of figs, honey, and cheese. I infused the honey with thyme leaves and lemon zest. I think you will enjoy this for a healthy light lunch or breakfast.

4 slices whole grain bread
2 t unsalted butter
4 oz Gorgonzola cheese, softened
¼ cup raw unfiltered honey
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
Zest of ½ lemon
3 Brown Turkey figs, stems removed and thinly sliced

In a skillet or griddle, melt butter and toast the bread until golden on both sides.
Spread the Gorgonzola cheese evenly on all 4 slices of toasted bread.
Pour honey into a small saucepan or bowl and heat slightly.

Add thyme leaves and lemon zest.
Arrange figs on each slice of bread.
Drizzle with honey and serve.

Friday, February 26, 2016


A jar of passata di pomodoro is simply San Marzano tomatoes that have been strained of all of their seeds and pureed. It is very common to find in markets in Italy and now available in the USA and Canada. You should find it in the tomato sauce section. You probably know that I do not recommend using extra-virgin olive oil for frying your garlic and onions. If you get the heat too high, it ruins the olive oil. I recommend drizzling your best extra-virgin olive oil over finished pasta dishes and of course, salads.

1 T extra-light olive oil 
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ t red pepper flakes
1 glass jar (24 oz) tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro)
¼ jar white wine or water
1 t sugar or ½ small carrot, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 basil leaves, plus a couple for garnish
½ lb penne pasta
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes for one minute.
Add the tomato sauce and fill the jar ¼ full with white wine or water and add to the sauce.
Add the sugar or grated carrot, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tear or chop the basil and add to the sauce.

Stir and let simmer 25 minutes.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the pasta.
Let boil for 6 to 7 minutes.

Ladle out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside.

Drain pasta and pour back into the pot that you cooked the pasta in.

Ladle in the pasta water and some of the tomato sauce to cover the pasta.
Let simmer another 3 to 4 minutes, while stirring.

Divide between two warm pasta bowls, add a little more sauce and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. 
Garnish with basil and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Serves 2

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Just about every region of Italy has its own minestrone or “big soup.” This was a basic, hearty soup for Italians in the new country. For Minestrone alla Genovese, add a dollop of basil pesto sauce on top of the soup. For Minestrone alla Milanese, add arborio rice instead of pasta and omit the pesto sauce.

Soffrito “underfried”
2 oz pancetta, diced
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium leek, cleaned, white part diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced

In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium-high heat until golden.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion, leek, and celery until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another minute.

1 (28 oz) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1 small savoy cabbage, cored and chopped
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme, tied together with cotton butcher’s twine
1 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
1 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
12 cups (3 qts) chicken stock

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 small bunch Swiss chard leaves, trimmed of stems and chopped
1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup ditalini or ditali pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for the table

Pour tomatoes into a bowl and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores.
Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

In the pot with the soffrito, stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cabbage, cheese rind, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, lower heat, partially cover and let simmer 30 minutes, stirring a few times.
Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer another 30 minutes.

To the pot, add the zucchini, parsley, Swiss chard, beans, and pasta.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer until pasta is al dente, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove the cheese rind, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs, before serving.

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve with crusty bread and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Serves 4 to 6


In her kitchen in 1968, Temple Hills, Maryland 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Whether you call it a sub, hoagie, hero, or grinder, this is a quintessential Italian-American sandwich.  

1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into 2 (6 to 8-inch) pieces 
Capicola or other Italian ham, sliced
Pepperoni, sliced
Genoa salami, sliced 
Provolone cheese, sliced 
Shredded lettuce
Onion slices
Tomato slices
Pepperoncini peppers, stems removed and sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Garlic powder
Freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice each piece of bread lengthwise to make sandwich rolls.
Spread a little mayonnaise on each side of the bread.
Layer the bottom half with a slice of the ham, pepperoni, salami, and provolone. 
Place under the broiler for a minute or two, just to melt the cheese.
Add the lettuce, onion slices, tomato slices, and pepperoncini. 
Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Sprinkle with a little garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place the top half of bread on and serve. 

Serves 2