Thursday, December 8, 2022


Here is another classic Italian-American breakfast...eggs in tomato sauce with grated cheese and grilled Italian bread. You can use any good-quality marinara sauce from your grocery store or use my Casa Marinara Sauce (see recipe, page 64 in my cookbook) or Casa Tomato Sauce (see recipe, page 65 in my cookbook). Uova in Purgatorio.

1 cup good-quality prepared marinara or tomato sauce 
2 large eggs, preferably free-range
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spoon a little sauce into two small ovenproof dishes or skillets. 

Break eggs into two small bowls.

Make a slight clearing in the center of the sauce by scraping with a spoon.
Carefully slide the eggs into the sauce and spoon more sauce around the eggs, but not on top.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and grated Parmigiano cheese.

Place dishes or skillets on a baking sheet. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until eggs are set and yolks are still soft.

Serve with crusty grilled Italian bread and additional grated Parmigiano cheese.
Serves 2

Note: You can make the recipe using two eggs for each serving—just use larger baking dishes.


Thursday, December 1, 2022


These Italian Christmas cookies do not contain butter, flour, or egg yolks and are another Christmas family favorite. They are so easy to make and totally delicious. You can also replace the vanilla extract with almond extract and replace the pecans for almonds. Save your yolks covered in the refrigerator for another recipe.

Lee's Kitchen Tips:

Make sure your mixing bowl is impeccably clean or the eggs whites will not form into stiff peaks.

5 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ t cream of tartar, optional
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. 
Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Beat in vanilla extract. 
Remove bowl from mixer and mix in nuts with a spoon.

Drop by a rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets lightly sprayed with cooking oil or line with parchment paper.
Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off oven and let meringues stay in the oven for 1 hour, or until completely cooled.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes 5 to 6 dozen.


My mother-in-law gave me this recipe. I make them every Christmas. My husband, son, and daughter would be very disappointed if I didn't make them every year.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 t pure vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 ½ level cups all-purpose flour
¼ t salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar for coating cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until fluffy. 
Add vanilla and sugar and beat to combine. 
Add flour and salt and continue to beat.
Mix in pecans with a spoon.
Form into small balls and place on two cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.

Let cool and roll in additional confectioners' sugar. You can also pour confectioners' sugar into a paper bag and gently toss cookies until well coated.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022


I prefer spaghetti carbonara made with pancetta. If you are a purist, make it with guanciale (pork cheeks).  If you don't have pancetta, go ahead and make it with bacon.  Authentic spaghetti alla carbonara does not contain cream.  The creaminess comes from the eggs and cheese. Grate the cheeses, slice the shallots and garlic first and set them aside on a cutting board. This was my son, Brandon’s favorite.  We lived near an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. and he always ordered this when we ate there.  Why go to a restaurant for this when you can make it to perfection at home?

6 oz pancetta or guanciale, diced
2 T olive oil or avocado oil
2 T unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine

1 lb spaghetti
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 t red pepper flakes
1 T chopped fresh basil
Thinly shaved Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese, for garnish

In a large skillet that is big enough to hold the cooked pasta, cook the pancetta or guanciale until crisp.
Pour out any excess fat and add the olive oil and butter; sauté the shallots for about 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up the flavorful brown particles. 
Turn off the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook 7 to 8 minutes, until al dente. 
Drain the spaghetti, but save 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, put the eggs and yolks into a mixing bowl. 
Add half of the grated cheeses and season to taste with black pepper and red pepper flakes. Whisk until well combined. 
Return the skillet with bacon mixture to low heat. 
Add the hot drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for a couple of minutes to incorporate.

Remove the skillet from the burner and pour the egg-cheese mixture onto the pasta, tossing quickly and thoroughly, 
which will gently cook the eggs using the heat of the pasta.
Return the skillet to low heat and toss another minute.
Add some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce.
Add the chopped basil, and garnish with some shaved cheese and serve.

Serves 4

Monday, September 26, 2022


I have been making this pasta recipe for years. This dish comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it a quick and inexpensive weeknight meal.
Have everything cut up on a cutting board first. Then, you just slide them into your pan!
There are two items in this recipe that are optional, white wine and sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to omit them and your dinner will be equally delicious.  
Buon Appetito!

½ lb spaghetti or pasta of your choice
2 T olive oil
½ t red pepper flakes
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup green olives, cut in half
¼ cup Italian or Kalamata olives, cut in half
¼ cup capers, drained
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, optional
½ cup dry white wine, optional
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 T chopped fresh basil
½ cup pasta cooking water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook spaghetti for about 6 to 7 minutes, just before al dente.
Save ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet that will hold the pasta sauce and pasta, sauté red pepper flakes, and onion in oil for 5 to 6 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté a couple more minutes.
Add tomatoes along with olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and wine.    Cook 2 more minutes. 
Add pasta and cook another minute.
Add parsley, basil and pasta water, and heat through.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss to combine.
Drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil and mix in.

Top with grated Parmigiano cheese and serve.

Serves 2 to 3


Saturday, September 24, 2022


This traditional seafood stew (pronounced cah-choo-co) is popular in the western port town of Livorno in Tuscany, Italy.

It is similar to San Francisco's Cioppino, but less expensive to make, because it doesn't contain Dungeness Crab.  It is also less expensive to make than French Bouillabaisse, because it doesn't contain saffron.
Use your favorite shell fish and fish, whatever is available at your local fish market.
This morning I bought beautiful, shrimp, clams, and cod at our local country store and seafood market. 

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz) crushed Italian tomatoes
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
½ t sea salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle clam broth
1 cup water
1 carefully washed orange, orange part peeled with a vegetable peeler
1 T chopped fresh basil
12 little neck clams, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lbs cod or haddock fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
Crusty Italian bread, cut into slices, toasted in the oven and drizzled with olive oil

In a Dutch oven or paella pan, heat oil over medium-low heat, cook onion for 10 minutes.  
Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute.  
Stir in wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  
Add tomatoes, half of the parsley, oregano, rosemary, salt, and black pepper.  
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Stir in clam broth, water, orange peel, and basil.
Add clams, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until clams begin to open.  
Add shrimp and fish and cook until fish is opaque in center, about another 5 minutes.
Discard any clams that do not open.
Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove orange peels and ladle into warm soup bowls.
Sprinkle with remaining parsley and add a couple of toasted slices of bread.

Serves 2 to 3

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

BIG MAMMA 1881-1970


This is Big Mamma (Teresa Lapetina Greco) on her front porch in Portsmouth, Virginia.
I can almost smell her Sunday Gravy simmering away on her stove.

Monday, September 19, 2022


It is sometimes difficult to find a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in Italian-American restaurants. Usually, the sauce (gravy) is too acidic and the meatballs are gray in color. I make Big Mamma's Sunday Gravy once or twice a year with Italian sausages, meatballs, ribs, and occasionally braciole. It simmers on the stove for 5 hours, but this recipe is much faster and lighter. If I had an Italian restaurant, this would definitely be on the menu. 

½ cup plain bread crumbs or 3 slices white bread, day old, processed in a food processor
3 T milk
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal (optional, but add more ground beef)
2 large egg 
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup minced Italian parsley
1 t granulated garlic
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the milk and stir to combine.
Set the mixture aside until the crumbs have absorbed the milk.
Add the remaining ingredients, and with dampened hands, shape into 1 ½-inch balls.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat a little extra-light olive oil until hot, but not smoking.
Adjust heat to medium-low and slowly fry the meatballs in batches until brown on all sides.
Do not attempt to turn the meatballs until they are thoroughly brown on one side and easily release from the bottom of the pan. Be patient with this step or you will have odd-shaped meatballs.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl and set aside while frying the rest.

“Quick Sunday Gravy”
3 (28 oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 T extra-virgin olive oil (for slowly cooking the onions & garlic)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press or minced
½ cup dry red wine
1 (24 oz) can tomato sauce
½ t red pepper flakes
1 T granulated sugar (optional)
1 t freeze-dried or chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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

In the same large heavy pot or Dutch oven, pour out some of the excess fat (but not the brown particles) and add the extra-virgin olive oil.
Over medium-low heat, sauté the onion for 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to sauté another minute.
Add the wine and simmer a few seconds.
Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot and scrape up any browned particles from the bottom of the pot.
Pour in the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and basil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Partially cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add the meatballs and simmer, partially covered another 45 minutes, gently stirring occasionally.

Boil the spaghetti in salted water for 7 to 8 minutes, until al dente.
Drain well, then add the spaghetti back into the pot.
Mix in some of the sauce to color the spaghetti and serve with a little more sauce, some meatballs, and grated cheese.

Serves 4

* You should have 28 to 32 meatballs with extra sauce for for one or two more meals.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


There are beautiful heirloom-style cherry tomatoes available in the market these days, including varieties like sun gold, chocolate cherry, and red and yellow pear. They are a symphony in your mouth with their amazing flavors. Pair them with cherry or pearl bocconcini (fresh mozzarella cheese) and sweet basil. I added Italian black olives to this salad which was so delizioso!

Sicilian cherry tomatoes are also called Pachino, like the Sicilian town where they grow. Caprese con Pomodorini.

2 cups mixed heirloom-style cherry tomatoes
1 tub (8 oz) cherry or pearl bocconcini, drained
½ cup pitted and chopped Italian black olives   
1 bunch basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Cut tomatoes in half and place in a bowl.  
Add the drained bocconcini and olives.
Tear or chop leaves of basil and add to the bowl.  
Drizzle with some olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper and gently toss.
Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving to let the flavors develop.

Serves 2


Italian Giardiniera can be served as a small salad or spread on grinders, subs, hoagies, heroes, or muffuletta sandwiches. This is so easy to make and so very delicious! Golden Peperoncini can be found in a jar in your supermarket near the olives and pickles.

To save time, there is also Deli-Sliced Golden Peperoncini.

1 small head cauliflower
1 medium onion
4 medium carrots, peeled
4 stalks celery
2 red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
2 green bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
1 12 oz jar Golden Peperoncini or Deli-Sliced Golden Peperoncini
1 12 oz jar pimento-stuffed green olives
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T freeze-dried or dried oregano
1 t red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups white vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 t sea salt
2 t ground black pepper

Using a large cutting board, cut the core off of the cauliflower, remove the florets, cut or break into small pieces, and transfer to a large bowl.
Dice of the onions, celery, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and transfer to the large bowl.
Pour the juice of the jar of peperoncini into the bowl.
Cut off the stems and chop the peperoncini, (if using the whole Golden Peperoncini) then transfer to the bowl.
Drain the olives and discard the juice.
Slice the olives and transfer to the bowl.
Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Stir to combine and transfer the salad, using a large slotted spoon, into 3 sterilized quart size jars with seals.
Evenly divide the juice between the three jars.

Wipe off rims with a clean cloth and screw on tops.

Store in your refrigerator for at least 3 days for flavors to develop.
Bring to room temperature for olive oil to return to its original consistency.
Shake to combine, before using.

Makes 3 quart size jars or 6 pint size jars