Immigrant and Native Italian Cooking


Copyright © 2004-2018 by Robert A. Alfieri and Genevieve P. Hill.  All rights reserved.


Last update: December 25, 2017




Chicken Soup

Little Meatballs for Soup

Crepes for Soup

Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs, Escarole, and Rice

Croutons for Soup

Cannellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Mamma Alfieri’s Italian Sausage

Macaroni, Sausage, and Broccoli

Meatballs for Sauce

Sausage for Sauce

The Sauce

Ravioli Filling


Stuffed Shells or Manicotti

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells


Chocolate Cookies

White Cookies





Brodo I

Brodo II


Ragù I

Ragù II

Ragù III

Risotto con Ragù

Risotto cogli Asparagi e Zafferano

Spaghettini coi Capperi e Mozzarella

Maccheroni con Sugo di Pomodoro

Pesto di Basilico

Pizza Napoletana

Pasta all’Uovo

Fettuccine all’Alfredo



Appendix A: Ingredients


Appendix B: Utensils


Appendix C: Measurement Conversions


Section I: Immigrant-Italian

This section includes only recipes that were heavily influenced by Italian immigrants in Western New York and their descendants.  All of these recipes – except where noted - come from my mother, Alda Dianetti Alfieri, who was born in America but had Italian-immigrant parents.

I consider the Northeast as an unofficial region of Italy whose style of Italian cooking has evolved legitimately on its own.



Chicken Soup

This simple chicken soup recipe forms the basis of various derivative recipes found on subsequent pages.  They are the easiest recipes that you’ll find in this book.  I always kick myself for not making chicken soup more often.  It can be frozen for months and reheated as necessary.

Full Young chicken with skin but without loose organs

4 stalks celery, as many strings removed as possible

4 carrots, skinned

4 Tbl. chopped American parsley

3 Tbl. salt for starters


1.       Soak chicken in salt water for ½ hour.  Rinse thoroughly.  Be careful to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.

2.       Put chicken in full pot of water with 3T salt.

3.       Turn on high heat and wait until water boils.

4.       Spoon off any scum.

5.       Add celery, carrots, and parsley.

6.       Boil softly for 3 ½ hours with cover mostly on the pot.  A soft boil is stronger than a simmer, but obviously you don’t want all the water to evaporate.

7.       There is no need to stir the soup.

8.       After 3 hours of cooking, occasionally taste and add salt if necessary in 1 tsp. increments.

9.       Once the soup cools enough to be handled, pour it through a large strainer into large plastic containers suitable for freezing. 

10.   Cut up cooked carrots and put them into soup containers along with the soup.  Discard celery and parsley. 

11.   Similarly, pick as much white and dark meat from the chicken and put it into the soup containers along with the soup.  Discard rest of chicken carcass.

12.   The soup can be frozen for months.   Let the soup defrost before reheating.  Normally, I let it sit out on the counter overnight.  It can also be defrosted with the help of a microwave.  Additional fat will have accumulated at the top of the container and you may decide to remove it before reheating the soup.  There’s a trade-off between flavor and healthfulness, as usual.

Little Meatballs for Soup

Whenever I make the chicken soup, I also make these little meatballs.  The recipe is the same as the meatball recipe for the tomato sauce, except that there is no garlic or hot pepper and we use chopped sirloin and optionally ground veal.  And, obviously, these meatballs are much smaller.  Once cooked to completion in the soup, they appear light gray in color.

4 large eggs

2 ½ lbs. chopped sirloin (can also substitute ground veal for half of this meat)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

1 cup plain, unflavored bread crumbs

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. salt

2 Tbl. chopped parsley


1.            Thoroughly mix all ingredients with hands.  Extra mixing has a tenderizing effect.  5 minutes should be sufficient. Be careful to wash your hands well after handling raw meat.

2.            Roll into little meatballs ¾ inch in diameter.

3.            Boil for 5 minutes.  Note: they are not fully cooked at this point, so do not eat them.

4.            Drain using a colander and store in plastic container or plastic bag.  They can be frozen for months.

5.            Add to chicken soup ½ hour before serving to complete cooking.  Stir occasionally.

Crepes for Soup

95% of the time when I make the soup with the little meatballs, I also make these tasty crepes.  They are incredibly easy to make and go very well with the soup.  The Pecorino Romano cheese is the secret ingredient here.  Once your family realizes how good these are, you will need to slap their hands as they try to steal them.  This usually means that you should make 1.5x to 2x as many crepes as in this recipe, otherwise they will all be gone in one day.  Note that escarole, rice, pasta, and croutons are not added to the soup if crepes are used.

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

12 eggs

2 cups water

grated Pecorino Romano

non-stick PAM


1.            Beat eggs with electric beater until foamy, adding water gradually.

2.            Continue beating, adding flour a little at a time until all used up.

3.            Preheat Teflon pan at medium heat.  If you don’t do this, the first crepe will stick.

4.            Spray pan with a light coating of PAM.

5.            With pan held in one hand, pour in ¾ ladleful of mixture, then quickly lift and tilt pan all around until bottom of pan is covered.

6.            Once the edges of the crepe curl up a little use a knife to lift the edge of the crepe then, with your hands, flip it over.  And try to avoid burning your hands.

7.            Cook the other side for a couple minutes.

8.            Sprinkle a generous amount of Pecorino Romano and roll up into a tight cylinder.

9.            Store in a large rectangular pan or casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil until ready to use.  They are normally stored in the refrigerator, then allowed to warm up to room temperature prior to serving. 

10.        Serve with extra Pecorino Romano on the side, though the crepes usually contain enough to flavor the soup.


Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs, Escarole, and Rice

Once you’ve made the chicken soup with the little meatballs, the simplest variation on the recipe is to add rice and escarole.  Optionally, you can add the crouton recipe on the next pages, but that’s considerably more work.

Chicken Soup from previous recipe

Little meatballs from previous recipe

2 heads escarole

2 cups white rice


1.            Rinse escarole thoroughly.

2.            Boil escarole for 10 minutes, and then turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes more.

3.            Squeeze water out of escarole and cut up.

4.            Add escarole and rice to soup ½ hour before serving and let cook at a slow boil.


Croutons for Soup

If there’s a recipe in this book that could clog your arteries and take a year off your life, this is probably it.   That also means that this recipe is super-yummy.  Pretty sad trade-off, huh? The croutons must be cooked in lard (animal fat).  The lard gives them their taste and crispness.  Any other cooking fat will produce something that doesn’t resemble what was intended in this recipe, so please do not substitute the first time you make this.  The croutons should be served alongside the soup with the little meatballs and escarole (no rice).  The guest places the croutons in the soup and eats them at the same time as the soup.  My mom and I got into a lot of fights as I would snarf the croutons from the counter and devour them before the soup was served, leaving fewer for our guests.

1 day-old loaf of Italian Bread

3 Tbl. King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

5 large eggs

1 lb. lard

¼ tsp. black pepper


1.            Cut up Italian bread into cubes about ¾ inches on each side.

2.            In a wide casserole dish, sprinkle flour over bread cubes and mix to coat well.

3.            On the same or next day, toast in oven @ 350 F for long enough to dry out the bread cubes, typically about 10 minutes.  DO NOT BROWN THE BREAD CUBES!

4.            On the same day, beat eggs with pepper and pour over cubes.  Mix well.

5.            Melt lard in large frying pan.

6.            Fry ½ the bread cubes in the frying pan, separating with a spoon.  

7.            Drain in colander.

8.            Store in bowl and leave out prior to use.

9.            Repeat steps 6-8 for the other ½ of the bread cubes.




Cannellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Wendy found this recipe and we eat it all the time as a healthy carb.  We usually make 2x the recipe shown here. 

1 garlic clove, minced

1 shallot, finely diced

2 Tbl. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

4-6 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

3 Roma tomatoes or ½ cup cherry/grape tomatoes, neatly diced

Salt and freshly-milled pepper, to taste

3 cups of canned (cooked) cannellini beans, rinsed

4 scallions, including some of the greens, thinly cross-sliced

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced



1.            In small bowl, combine garlic, shallot, both vinegars, and salt and pepper.

2.            Let that stand for 15 minutes.

3.            Meanwhile, in a spacious bowl, combine (rinsed) cannellini beans, scallions, and basil.

4.            Back to the vinaigrette, whisk in oil and add tomatoes, then adjust tanginess and seasoning to taste.

5.            Mix vinaigrette into the bean mixture in the bigger bowel.

6.            Do final seasoning with salt and pepper, particularly the salt.


Mamma Alfieri’s Italian Sausage

Most Italian sausage found in grocery stores is too fatty and lacks taste.  Frankly, it’s not very good.  My grandmother, Genoeffa Alfieri (1898-1967), brought this recipe with her from Molise, Italy and taught my dad, Dominic Alfieri, how to make it.  This was one of the most requested items at Alfieri’s Food Market, the signature meat item with a package name the same as the title of this recipe.  Near the end of his life, my dad passed the recipe on to my uncles Vincent and Alex, but the ingredients were not carefully measured.  My uncles, after some trial and error, were able to get pretty close to the original recipe.  They sold the sausage to various people in our hometown for 20 years after the grocery store closed down and they still make it in Grandma Alfieri’s garage.  I joined them once and carefully weighed the ingredients.  After some trial and error of my own, I’ve been able to provide a precise set of measurements here.  This recipe requires special utensils and ingredients, and is a lot of work, but the results are great.  The sausage can be eaten by itself on Italian bread, used in the meat-flavored sauce recipe, or used in a special recipe Grandma Alfieri created with shell macaroni and broccoli

Before getting into the details, you are probably wondering how on earth you can best obtain the meat grinder, pork butts and hog casings. 


To make a long story short on the meat grinder, my first attempt ended up ruining my wife’s fancy Kitchen-Aid mix master by using a meat grinder attachment.  It also didn’t work very well.   Many years went by of not making sausage and I ended up buying a Weston #32 Stainless Steel Pro with a 1.5 HP motor.  It’s overkill.  The 1 HP model would have been just fine but I didn’t want to leave any doubt.    I call my meat grinder The Beast.  It’s built like a tank and could have been used in the movie Fargo to grind up Steve Buscemi’s character.


With my grinder, I am using a 10mm (3/8”) plate rather than the 8mm one that came with it and made the sausage a little to finely ground.  I have also purchased a set of metal nosels.  I’m in the middle of experimenting with nosel size and will report back soon.


In terms of the pork butts, I get them at my local Harris Teeter grocery store for $1.99/lb., which is not a bad price.  You can get them cheaper at a meat wholesaler.  I normally buy about 14 lbs. with bone and will end up with 10 lbs. after trimming and boning.  I found the hog casings cheap at a local meat market (Cliff’s in Carrboro).  I purchase the paprika and fennel from Amazon, other spices from the grocery store.


You also need a small scale to weigh the spices and a larger scale to weigh the pork cubes.   I have a digital spice scale with a holder and a larger kitchen scale with built-in bowl for the cubes.



10 lb. boned, trimmed, and cubed pork butts or shoulder (weight is for resultant cubes, so need about 14 pounds before trimming)

Hog casings

Meat grinder

2 oz. salt, carefully weighed

1 cup water

2.3 oz. paprika (I use McCormick brand), carefully weighed

0.5 oz. black pepper, carefully weighed

0.5 oz. crushed red pepper, carefully weighed

0.7 oz. fennel seed (I use Simply Organic brand), carefully weighed, this is the absolute max you want to use


1.       Pre-soak the casings in cold salt water and store in a refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.  Rinse and transfer to cold water (no salt) when ready to make the sausage.

2.       Pre-weigh the spices and keep them in small zip lock bags.  I like to do this before the mess begins.

3.       Bone pork butts, being careful to remove cartilage and grungy stuff around the bone.  Trim most of the fat off the outside of the pork butts.  Cut up into small cubes about 1 in. on a side, removing any veins.  The size of the cubes actually depends on the power of your meat grinder.   Keep the remaining fat except for large fatty areas.  If you trim too much fat, the sausage will end up dry and not have as much taste.  Further, it could end up too spicy (fat absorbs some of the spiciness).   As mentioned above, about 14 pounds of  pork butts with bone should yield about 10 pounds of boned, trimmed and cubed pork.  If you trimmed more fat than that, then you went too far. 

4.       Note: the order of the next steps is important.

5.       Add salt and water to pork cubes.  Mix very well with hands.

6.       Add hot pepper.  Mix very well with hands.

7.       Add black pepper.  Mix very well with hands.

8.       Add paprika.  Mix very well with hands.

9.       Add fennel.  Mix very well with hands.

10.   Before grinding meat, rinse casing through twice with cold water. Normally, I just keep a bowl of cold water under the meat grinder and rinse them through by dunking it many times in the water to nearly fill up the casing with water, and then pulling it through for the first rinsing.  For the second rinsing, fill it up similarly then let the water come out as you put the casing on the nozzle.  Water the nozzle, put casing on the nozzle (again, done during second rinsing), and twist end of casing.  If the casing sticks going on, it will stick coming off which means it will break.  If this happens, try to add more water around the casing as it’s going on.  Sometimes a casing may have little pustules on it that cause it to grip the nozzle; in this case, you may want to get another casing.   Also, after I get the casing on the nozzle, I pull the whole thing toward the front in order to keep it from sticking.

11.   Load up the meat grinder tray with as much meat as it will hold. Ideally, you want to load up as much as you’ll need for one casing.  My beast of a grinder can hold all 10 lbs.

12.   Turn on the meat grinder while holding onto the twisted end of casing.  Let casing regulate thickness of sausage.  Let it fill up its girth without breaking the casing, which can be tricky if you have a powerful grinder.  You need to keep a moderate grip on the casing close to the end of the nozzle in order to avoid getting sausages that are ½” in diameter.  My grinder is made safely enough so that I can use one hand to stuff the meat down the grinder chute.   I move the bowl with the other casings off to the side and use a big tray under the meat grinder so that the sausage can simply fall onto it.  This can also be used to catch water that gets splashed around. 

13.   Occasionally, you may need to clean out the meat grinder as it can get clogged up.

14.   When finished, cut up sausage into links each about 5-6 in. long.  Store 5 links in double aluminum foil, then freeze whatever you don’t intend to cook immediately.

15.   The sausage is best cooked on a grill over low-ish heat.  Keep it in well-sealed aluminum foil for 32 minutes, turning over and moving around every 8 minutes.  Then remove from aluminum foil and finish browning off for 1-2 minutes.  Serve on Italian bread.   The next recipe with the shells and broccoli is faster and yummy.   The sausage also tastes great in my mother’s sauce recipe described below. 



There are three variations on the above Mild recipe.  All four types were sold at Alfieri’s Food Market in East Rochester, NY during the later 2/3 of the 20th Century.  Mild and Hot were the most popular.



Same as Mild version above, except:

1.5 oz. hot pepper (or more depending on how many taste buds you have left)



Same as Mild version above, except:

NO hot pepper

NO fennel


Abruzzese (ah-broot-TSAY-zay)

Same as Mild version above, except:

NO paprika

NO crushed red pepper (hot pepper)

Note: this came from my mother’s father who was from Abruzzo, Italy


The following table contains measurements for various attempts I’ve made for Mild.  Experiment F is the closest to what I remember and what I currently have specified above.   You can see that I’m still struggling with the amount of paprika and fennel.  The other ingredients have stabilized.































Dad did not measure so these are not accurate (except for salt)


from uncles







Too much black pepper

Experiment A







Too much fennel (but may not have been measured right); not enough hot pepper

Experiment B







Nice tanginess.

Not enough paprika or fennel

Experiment C







Too much paprika; still not enough fennel.

Experiment D







Paprika is close.  May need slightly more fennel.

Experiment E







Need slightly more paprika.  Leave fennel at 0.7 (definitely don’t want any more).

Experiment F








Macaroni, Sausage, and Broccoli

Grandma Alfieri invented this recipe to take advantage of the family’s Italian sausage recipe.   This is a simple pasta dish that takes very little time to prepare beyond boiling the macaroni.

1 lb. medium-sized shell macaroni (De Cecco Conchigliette or Gnocchi is actually what we use)

2 bunches broccoli

1.5 lb. Mamma Alfieri’s Italian Sausage (casings removed)


1.            Start boiling water.

2.            Cut off broccoli florets, discarding most or almost all of the stem, and put in the boiling water for about 5 minutes initially.  The broccoli must cook longer than the macaroni in order to get soft enough.

3.            In the meantime, start cooking of broken up sausage in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil.  Be careful not to burn it, but it must get cooked through.

4.            Add macaroni to boiling water - with broccoli still in the water - and cook both for the amount of time on the box.

5.            Once macaroni is done, drain.

6.            Mix drained broccoli and macaroni with cooked sausage in large bowl. 

7.            Do not add cheese.

 Meatballs for Sauce

This is my mother’s meatball recipe.  Meatballs of this size are an American invention.  Italians don’t even put small meatballs (polpette) on their pasta, they eat them separately.  And it would be blasphemous to make tennis ball-sized meatballs (polpettoni) as we do.  But who cares what they think?  These meatballs taste great and provide the key flavoring for my mom’s tomato sauce.  The eggs hold the meatballs together and add moisture.  Browning off the meatballs in the Crisco oil removes fat from the meatballs thus making the sauce less greasy, and also keeps the meatballs from falling apart in the sauce.  This recipe was originally scaled for 3 lb. of beef, but I’ve since increased it to avoid running out of meatballs.

6 large eggs

4.5 lb. chopped sirloin

1.5 cups grated Pecorino Romano (I usually add a little more)

1.5 cups plain (unflavored) bread crumbs

3 cloves crushed garlic

¾ tsp. black pepper

¾ tsp. hot pepper

¾ tsp. salt

3-4 Tbl. chopped American parsley

Crisco oil (not shortening)


1.       Thoroughly mix all ingredients with hands.

2.       Roll into balls 1 ¾” in diameter.

3.       Heat 3/8” Crisco oil in one or two large pans at medium-high heat until bubbles a little.  Turn down heat later to medium. 

4.       Brown off meatballs, re-rolling each quickly before adding it to the oil.  Make sure all sides are browned (but not dark, dark brown).  Shake off excess oil.  I know a couple people who bake the meatballs in the oven, which is healthier, but it really does not taste the same.

5.       Drip-dry in colander over paper towel.

6.       Cover until ready for sauce.  These can be made ahead of time and stored in a refrigerator, but I usually make them the same time as the sauce.  Note: the meatballs are not done cooking at this point, so don’t eat one of them.  They need to finish cooking in the sauce.

 Sausage for Sauce

Along with the meatballs described in the previous recipe, browned off Italian sausage is the other major creator of taste in my mom’s sauce.  If possible, use the Mild Italian Sausage recipe.  Otherwise, try to find the leanest Hot Italian sausage you can.  Store-bought Hot Italian sausage tends not to be very hot at all.  In fact, the hot sausage I buy from Whole Foods is not as hot as Mamma Alfieri’s Mild sausage.  As with the meatballs, browning the sausage removes a lot of the fat, which makes the sauce less greasy.  Whole Foods hot Italian sausage is better than Harris Teeter’s, but the latter is cheaper and doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much.  Unless I am using Mamma Alfieri’s sausage, which is particularly yummy in the sauce, I usually buy the Whole Foods hot Italian sausage  and throw it out after the sauce is cooked.  Lately, I haven’t even been putting any store-bought sausage in the sauce and I don’t really miss it, so skip this step unless you make Mamma Alfieri’s.

8 links of Mamma Alfieri’s Mild Italian Sausage OR 6 links of store-bought Hot Italian sausage (more people will want to eat the former)

1-2 Tbl. of Crisco oil if sausage is lean (e.g., Mamma Alfieri’s)


1.       Brown sausage links in one or two pans with a little water (for steam) and optional oil (if sausage is lean).  Keep pan completely covered.  Brown at medium heat.

2.       Brown all 4 sides of sausage.  You may need to add a little water once in a while to avoid having it brown too fast.

3.       Eventually you’ll want to stop adding water so that sausage can finish browning.

4.       Remove from pan and dry on 3 layers of paper towel.  Add paper towel on top.

5.       For the type of sausage you get from a typical supermarket, you’ll notice a lot of fat left in the pan to discard.  Typically I discard it out in the woods behind my back yard.  Do not dump it down your drain.

The Sauce

The key to my mother’s sauce is to use the browned-off meatballs and sausage from the previous two recipes to flavor the sauce.  Browning them off removes a lot of unnecessary fat, keeps the sauce from getting greasy, and keeps the meat from falling apart in the sauce.  The flavor of the sauce comes mainly from the meat.

Browned-off meatballs from previous recipe

Browned-off sausage from previous recipe (optional, particularly if store-bought looks very fatty)

1 10-gallon (huge) sauce pot

4 28 oz. cans Cento crushed tomatoes

3 12 oz. cans Contadina tomato paste (or Hunt’s)

1 medium chopped yellow onion

½ chopped green (or red) pepper

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¾ tsp. sage

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. red pepper (cut back a little if sausage is very hot)

1 heaping tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt (for starters, more added later)


1.       Sauté’ chopped onion and red/green pepper in olive oil at bottom of a 16-quart pot until soft.  This is low heat for typically 10-15 minutes.

2.       For EACH can of crushed tomatoes, add ½ can of water.

3.       For EACH can of tomato paste, add 3 cans of water.

4.       Add spices. 

5.       Mix until paste dissolved.  A spaghetti separator works well for this task.

6.       Bring to boil over HIGH heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  It’s good to use a spatula with a wide, flat edge to make sure stuff is not sticking at the bottom. Lower to simmer.

7.       After one hour, add just under 1 tsp. salt and all of the browned-off meat, and then cook for two more hours at simmer, stirring occasionally.  Again, be sure to scrape bottom when stirring to avoid burning.  Magic occurs during this stage of the cooking because this is when the meat flavors the sauce. 

8.       Turn off heat and let sit on stove for 1-3 hours covered.  If you finish cooking very late at night, just let it sit there until the next morning.  More magic occurs in the sauce.

9.       Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  If you don’t plan to use it within a few days, store in large plastic containers and freeze.  Note: if you defrost this sauce, be sure it is completely defrosted prior to reheating on the stove.  Place it in the refrigerator 3 days prior to reheating.  If you don’t defrost fully, the meatballs will break up and you’ll end up with a real mess.  Further, heat won’t conduct well and you’ll most likely burn the sauce at the bottom of the pot.  I’ve made this mistake too many times. 

10.   This sauce should always be served with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, not Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Add sauce to cover bottom of pasta serving dish, then add cooked pasta, then a generous layer of grated Pecorino on top of the pasta, then more sauce to cover the top of the pasta, and then sprinkle more Pecorino on top.  Serve with an extra grated Pecorino on the side.  The meatballs, in particular, taste better with extra grated Pecorino.  Use a wide, shallow pasta serving dish if possible.

11.   If you don’t have time to make homemade pasta, use De Cecco brand macaroni.  My family prefers De Cecco fusilli, gnocchi, conchigliette, rigatoni, and spaghettini.  My second favorite brand is Barilla.  Note that Barilla spaghettini is much thinner than De Cecco, so use Barilla spaghetti instead.

Ravioli Filling

This ravioli filling can also be used for stuffed shells, stuffed manicotti, or lasagne.  The recipe comes from my mother, except for the addition of grated whole nutmeg, which comes from my wife, Wendy.  Always use whole milk ricotta, never part-skim.  There’s a recipe in the Native Italian section on how to make homemade ricotta – it’s very easy.

6 lb. whole milk ricotta (freshly made, otherwise Calabro brand, else Polly-O brand)

10 large eggs

3 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese

¾ to 1 cup chopped American parsley

1 tsp. salt

2/3 of a whole nutmeg grated finely


1.       For the parsley, the easiest way to chop it is to gradually cut off the top leaves from the whole bunch using scissors.   Then remove any coarse stems and do a final chop.   I like a lot of parsley so usually end up with 1 cup of chopped leaves.

2.       Mix all ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spoon or with your hands.  I typically do this in a 12-quart pot.

3.       Cover and refrigerate until needed.

4.       Refer to the recipes on the following pages, which use this filling.



When I make homemade pasta, most of the time I go ahead and make my mom’s ravioli and freeze it.  This is my family’s favorite food, hands-down.  When I was a child, this was my first exposure to Italian cooking.  My mother initially let me turn the crank on the pasta machine.  Later, I was allowed to fork the ravioli (to seal them).  Eventually, I was allowed to do all the tasks.  My kids have been helping me since they were three years old and my daughter, Gaby, is now able to do everything without my being present.  I’ve changed a few major things about this recipe: 1) the dough is now made the same way that native Italians make it (see the Pasta all’Uovo recipe in the Native section, 2) I usually make my own ricotta (see the Ricotta recipe in the Native section), and 3) I roll out the dough in a way that takes much less time and uses less dough per ravioli, again, closer to the way Italians make them.   The filling, however, is still more or less the way my mother intended.


1 ½ recipe of Pasta all’Uovo from the Native section (1.5 kg of flour, 18 eggs)



1 recipe Ravioli Filling above


1.       Make the filling and put it in the refrigerator so it’s ready to go.

2.       Make the dough and roll it out as described in the Pasta all’Uovo recipe in the Native section, except stop after step #10.

3.       Use a rolling pin free of flour to widen the dough a little more so that there’s room for two rows of fillings.

4.       Lay down pairs of generous fillings using a spoon along HALF the length of the dough.  At the end, you might be able to get only one filling if it’s not very square – ok.

5.       Fold the dough over length-wise (i.e., horizontally) so that all fillings are now covered.

6.       With your hands, stretch the top dough so that its two edges come down and meet the bottom dough’s edges.  Press.

7.       Use your fingers to push the edges together and at the same time push the filling a little more away from the edge to give the edge a little more border.

8.       Cup your hands, overlapping along the fingers from both hands so that your two hands form a semicircle.  You are not interlocking your fingers here. Work your way down the dough, cupping around each filling blob and pushing down firmly on the dough.  Be sure not to cup really closely to the filling.  It will need some room to breath otherwise it could explode when cooked.

9.       Make a horizontal cut using the crinkled edge of your ravioli cutter right between the two rows of fillings.  Then make vertical cuts between pairs of fillings.  You should now have square ravioli that are separated from each other.

10.   Place wasted dough scraps in a pile somewhere away from flour.  We can optionally make some pasta out of this when we’re done. 

11.   Find the largest cookie sheet that can fit in your freezer and line it with wax or parchment paper.  You’ll be stacking ravioli two-high.

12.   Fork the edges of each raviolo to seal it.  Be careful not to fork too closely to the filling as this could cause it to explode when cooked.  This is why we originally made the dough wider and wanted some border. 

13.   Place ravioli on the paper described in step 11. Once a layer is full, cover with another layer of wax paper or parchment paper.  Once you have two layers cover well with aluminum foil and place immediately in the freezer with nothing stacked on it, even if you plan to cook the ravioli immediately.  Don’t stack ravioli more than two layers high.  

14.   Repeat previous steps until all ravioli are made.

15.   Make spaghetti or fettuccine out of wasted dough scraps.  Knead the scraps together, not adding any flour.  It already has too much flour.  You may need to run it through setting one more times than usual to make the dough a little smoother. 

16.   The next day, take frozen ravioli off wax paper and place in large zip-lock type plastic bags and immediately put back into the freezer.  They are somewhat fragile, so try to find a place in the freezer where they won’t be knocked around much.

17.   When you cook the ravioli, do not remove them from the freezer until the water is boiling strongly and you are ready to put them into the water.  Otherwise, they will melt and you’ll have a big mess. 

18.   The ravioli are not done until they come to the top of the boiling water.  Even then, the edges will likely be a little too al dente and you’ll need to wait another 2-3 minutes.  During that time, pull one out, put some sauce and cheese on it, and eat it.  Or you can just take it out and bite down a little on the edge.  When to take it out depends on how al dente you want the edges to be.  You may need to repeat this.  

19.   Try to serve ravioli in one of those wide, shallow pasta serving dishes.  Cover bottom of serving dish with sauce (it’s good to have done this before the ravioli are done cooking).  Add drained ravioli.  Cover ravioli with a generous sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano.  Cover well with layer of sauce.  Lightly sprinkle more Pecorino Romano on top. 

20.   The ravioli are also excellent, possibly better, without sauce.  In this case, place ravioli on a large wide platter, not overlapping them.  Sprinkle a little extra virgin olive oil then a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano and serve immediately.  If you have a lot of ravioli in the freezer and not a lot of time, this is a quick meal.  My mother used to serve these and the ravioli with the sauce at the same time.

Stuffed Shells or Manicotti

Armed with ravioli filling from the previous recipe, the easiest thing to make is stuffed shells or stuffed manicotti.  As a bonus, you can make them mostly in advance and bake them just prior to serving.  I prefer to use store-bought macaroni shells for more texture and a firmer foundation for the filling.  Plus, if I’m going to go to the bother of making pasta, I’m going to make ravioli, not manicotti.

½ Ravioli Filling Recipe

30 large conchiglie shells or 25 manicotti shells (good brands: De Cecco, Barilla, Ferrara)

Alda’s sauce recipe

grated Pecorino Romano


1.       Part-boil the shells according to directions on package, typically about 2/3 of the time required to cook the shells al dente.

2.       Stuff each shell by hand. 

3.       Line shells in a 13”x9” rectangular casserole dish with a bottom layer of sauce already in place.  Do not stack shells.

4.       Cover tops of shells fully with sauce.  It’s important that no shell is exposed; otherwise it could dry out during cooking.

5.       Sprinkle Pecorino Romano on top of sauce.

6.       Cover with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

7.       Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes with cover of aluminum foil (shiny side toward shells).  Remove aluminum foil and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

8.       Serve with extra Pecorino Romano.



Vegetarian Stuffed Shells

My mother-in-law, Connie, discovered this great stuffed-shells recipe.  In fact, this is our favorite version.   The tomato cheese sauce topping is the magic.

Tomato Cheese Sauce

½ cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

15 cloves of garlic, sliced

½ lb Monterey Jack Cheese (shredded)—2 cups grated

½ lb Cheddar Cheese (shredded)—2 cups grated

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Cento is a great brand)


1.       In a large pan, saute garlic in Olive Oil for about 3-4 minutes.

1.       Remove garlic and add tomatoes.

2.       Simmer about 5 minutes.

3.       Add cheeses and stir until combined.

4.       Pour over shells.



Shells and Filling

8 ounces Jumbo Shells (De Cecco or Barilla are best brands if you can find them; I have found Barilla at Walmart)

12-16 oz whole milk ricotta (freshly made, otherwise Calabro brand, else Polly-O brand)

5 oz fresh spinach—cooked, squeezed dry, and chopped (or more)

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or more)

1 egg yolk

1/8 tsp of nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)


1.       Preheat oven to 400F

2.       Bring 4 quarts of water to rapid boil.  Drop in shells and some salt (1/2 to 1 tablespoon). Cook according to package directions—a little less because you will be baking later. Drain and rinse in cool water; drain again.

3.       In a bowl, blend together the ricotta, cooked spinach, ½ the grated cheese, egg yolk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

4.       Fill each shell with the cheese filling and arrange the shells in a large baking pan.

5.       Pour Tomato Cheese Sauce (above) over the shells.

6.       Scatter the remaining grated cheese over the top.

7.       Bake until bubbly and golden, about 15 minutes.



My mother used to make this for lunch when I was a little kid.  This is the simplest pasta lunch you can make.  The only thing I do differently is used grated Parmigiano-Reggiano rather than grated Pecorino.

1 lb De Cecco Acini di Pepe tiny macaroni specks

48 oz. low-salt chicken broth

pinch of sea salt

freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1.       Bring chicken broth and pinch of salt to a medium boil.

2.       Cook Acini di Pepe in chicken broth at medium boil according to directions on package.  Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick together.  Test for salt.

3.       Pour into soup bowls, add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste.  Let cool.  Mix with spoon and eat.  Very simple and fast meal.




 Chocolate Cookies

These cookies from my mother are the most sought after dessert I’ve ever made.  Neither too sweet nor too cake-like, my friends have commented that they must contain a drug that makes you want to have another.  They go by various names: Italian Meatball Cookies, Italian Sinker Ball Cookies, Italian Chocolate Cookies and, my favorite, Brown Balls.   The original recipe was double what is shown below.   We had a long-standing joke that you should never cut the recipe and I played up the farce for many years before finally cutting the recipe in half.  The recipe shown here makes 65-70.


½ lb. Crisco shortening (I use a packaging scale to weigh it)

½ qt. whole milk (not skim or 2%)



2 lbs. King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, it is best to get a 2 lb. bag otherwise it is necessary that you weigh the flour carefully, never try to convert pounds to cups

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup Hershey’s cocoa (or maybe slightly more)

6 oz. Nestlé’s semi-sweet morsels (normal-sized chocolate chips)

½ cup chopped walnuts (or maybe slightly more); don’t over-chop them

½ cup raisins (or maybe slightly less)

½ heaping tsp. cinnamon

½ heaping tsp. clove

½ heaping tsp. nutmeg (best to grate whole nutmeg yourself)

1 ½ tsp. baking soda



2 lb. Confectioner’s sugar

1 cup lukewarm water (original recipe called for 7/8 cup)


1.       Melt Crisco and milk over medium heat.  DO NOT STIR AND DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM IT.   Turn off heat and let sit for 3 hours.  The next time you make the recipe, you can let it cool off in the refrigerator or freezer and you will know how cool it needs to be based on the first time.

2.       In the meantime, combine all the other (dry) ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Mix thoroughly with your hands, making sure to fold in flour and other ingredients that are stuck at the bottom.

3.       Preheat oven to 375 F.

4.       Pour Crisco+milk from step 1 into dry mixture.  Mix very thoroughly with your hands.  Make sure all of the dry ingredients are folded into the cookie dough, including the stuff at the bottom of the pot.

5.       Push together pieces of dough into balls about 1 5/8” diameter.  DO NOT ROLL.  Essentially, you want to create something that is shaped like a ball, but has lots of cracks for the frosting.  If you make them too smooth, they won’t hold as much frosting.

6.       Bake in center of oven for 15 minutes.  It’s best to use one of those large, insulated cookie sheets and cook only one sheet at a time.  The cookies should not be completely dry when you take them out, otherwise they are overcooked.  With my oven 15 minutes is exactly right.

7.       Let the cookies sit on the stove for a couple minutes, then dump them onto a large area covered with aluminum foil (typically half a kitchen island).

8.       Mix new batch of frosting using above ingredients.  You will need two batches of frosting to cover all cookies in this recipe.

9.       As soon as the cookies from step 7 can be handled, hold each gently by their bottom and dunk top-down into frosting all the way to the base of the cookie.  Shake excess and place right-side-up on aluminum foil.  Frost two cookies at a time, one in each hand.  The cookies taste pretty good out of the oven like this, but they taste better after they have cooled fully.

10.   Repeat steps 5-9 until all cookies are done.

11.   Wait 1 hour, then cover cookies with aluminum foil and let them dry for 8-12 hours.

12.   After drying, put the cookies into large plastic freezer bags.  They can be frozen for months and taken out as necessary. 



 White Cookies

These cookies are traditional for Easter and almost as good as the Italian Chocolate Cookies.  Grandpa Alfieri’s sister, Ange, made the best version in town.  Although she was a very sweet and admired lady, she refused to give out the recipe and carried it to her grave.  The recipe that follows is the closest thing to Zi’ Ange’s and comes from my Uncle Alex’s mother-in-law, Gilda Milo. 


7 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

2 cups sugar

1 lb. unsalted butter

6 large eggs

2 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. cream of tartar

2 tsp. vanilla extract



2 lb. Confectioner’s sugar

7/8 cup warm water


1.            Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.

2.            Roll into balls 1 ½ inches in diameter.

3.            Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.

4.            Let the cookies sit on the stove for a little bit, then transfer to a large area covered with aluminum foil (typically half a kitchen island).

5.            Mix new batch of frosting using above ingredients.  You will need two batches of frosting to cover all cookies in this recipe.

6.            Once cookies from step 4 are cool enough to handle (but still warm/hot), hold each by their bottom and dunk into frosting all the way to the base of the cookie.  Shake excess and place right side up on aluminum foil.

7.            Repeat steps 3-6 until all cookies are done.

8.            Wait 2 hours, and then cover cookies with aluminum foil and let them dry overnight.

9.            The next morning, put the cookies into large plastic freezer bags.  They can be frozen for months and taken out as necessary.






This is a Calabrese Christmas pastry that my mom used to make in massive sizes and quantities.   We normally pronounce this pit-ten-gyooz, but the way it is written is properly pronounced peet-tehn-GWEEZ-ay. My Aunt Ida makes them smaller, which I prefer for giving away.   We’ll make ones that are slightly larger than hers.   This recipe makes 9-10 pittenguisi.   We normally make this in November and give 1-2 months for the ingredients to meld together.   This is ideal, but not necessary.  




3 lbs. chopped walnuts

3 lbs. raisins, 2 lb. normal, 1 lb. golden (or a little less if you don’t like raisins too much)

3 12 oz. packages choc chips (or maybe a little more if you love chocolate)

2 lbs. honey

1 cup Crisco vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon



8 eggs

2 cups melted Crisco shortening (cooled)

2 cups Crisco vegetable oil

3 cups warm water

3 Tbl. baking powder

1 cup sugar

5 lbs. King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

100% cotton string (such as cooking butcher’s twine)


1.            Mix filling ingredients together in a very large bowl or pot.  Cover with aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

2.            The next day, preheat oven to 360F.

3.            Melt the Crisco shortening and let it cool.  You can use the refrigerator to speed this up a little.

4.            Mix all wet ingredients for crust in a very large bowl or roasting pan. 

5.            Add in all baking powder and sugar.   Remix.

6.            Gradually stir in flour.   At some point, you’ll need to mix it in by hand.   Once mixed, knead dough for a few minutes.  

7.            Let dough sit for 30-60 minutes.

8.            To make one base crust, break off a small piece of dough and form it into a ball of diameter 2.5”.  

9.            Flatten it into a circle with your hands.

10.         Work the roller in a circle to keep the crust circular (btw, this technique also works well with pie crust).  The diameter should end up about 8”.  Thickness should be about 1/16” (1.5mm).   Don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect.   You can trim excess, which is what I always end up doing.

11.         Now we turn to the inside pastry rolls.   Break off a 3x larger (in volume, not diameter) piece than for the base crust.

12.         Roll out thin and mostly rectangular about 15" wide and however long it ends up being and however long your workspace can handle.   Work the roller left-to-right and front-to-back to spread it into a rectangle.    It should end up about 1/16” (1.5mm) thick like the base crust.

13.         Lay down filling left to right along the edge closest to you.   About 1” wide in filling.  I use my hand to grab the filling.

14.         Cut 1.5” away from the filling all the way across (right to left).   A circular ravioli (straight edge) cutter works well here.

15.         Fold over the dough toward you to cover the filling.   If you don’t fold it over far enough it will be harder to roll up so try to fold it over and down a little.

16.         Cut this strip into three 5" long sections using a knife.

17.         Roll up each section right-to-left.

18.         Place the first roll in the center of the base crust with the open end of the roll facing up to expose the filling on top.

19.         As you add other rolls to the base crust in a similar fashion, pack them tightly next to each other.  Don't be afraid to push them together to keep them from falling apart.

20.         8 rolls are about the right number to end up with per base crust.   Push them together one last time to make a nice circular grouping.

21.         Trim to leave 1” of border all the way around.  Throw the trimmed-off dough back into the bowl of dough.   All dough is used.   No scraps.

22.         Fold up the border of the base crust and press in place all the way around on the sides.   Make sure it folds all the way up the sides, otherwise it will leak during baking.

23.         Then use 100% cotton string and wrap it snugly twice around the middle (or slightly above the middle) of the outside border and tie it snugly.  Cut the string after tying a knot.   The pittenguise will expand during baking so it’s important that you don’t pull the string so tight that it bites into the dough too far.   That said you don’t want it loose either.   The string should indent slightly in the dough.

24.         Place this completed pittenguise on an ungreased cookie sheet.

25.         Wait until the cookie sheet is full but leave 1” between the individual pittenguises.   They will expand during baking.   I have large cookie sheets and fit six at a time.

26.         Bake 30 minutes on the bottom rack.

27.         Bake 30 minutes on the top rack.   After 15 minutes of this, cover the tray loosely with aluminum foil to avoid burning during the last 15 minutes.

28.         You may have trays on the top and bottom racks at the same time.   Separate timers come in handy for keeping track of them.

29.         Let the finished pittenguises cool on the cookie sheet or on a cookie rack for an hour.

30.         Wrap each pittenguise tightly in double-wrapped aluminum foil with the string left in place.

31.         Store them in a cool dry place.   Definitely wait 24 hours before eating any.   As I mentioned in the introduction, ideally these are made 1-2 months in advance of Christmas.



Section II: Native-Italian

This section contains only recipes that one would consider to be “authentic” Italian.  They may date back hundreds of years, but they are prevalent in modern Italian culture and you would likely find something close to them if you were to take a trip to mainland Italy, particularly in the northern and central regions.


This word is pronounced broo-SKET-tah, not broo-SHET-tah.   "ch" is always "k" in Italian and "gh" is always hard "g".  Anyway, this is an easy and tasty appetizer.  Ideally one toasts the bread on a grill, but it's too easy to burn.  I've switched to using the broiler and it produces much more consistent results.


1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced into 1/2" slices

6 whole cloves of garlic, without skin

extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin (same as Sagra in Italy), Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin, or DeCarlo Felice Garibaldi)


Topping 1 (mixture)

extra virgin olive oil

grape tomatoes (some cut in half, some not)

tiny NY-style mozzarella balls

a little salt


Topping 2 (mixture)

extra virgin olive oil

grilled peppers, cut up

[this needs to be fleshed out a little more, there's more to this]



1.       Preheat oven to broil.

2.       Place Italian bread slices on a cookie sheet.  Do not overlap slices.

3.       Toast topside of slices.  You'll need to watch them closely until you get the hang of it.

4.       Turn over slices and toast the other side, which will naturally take less time.

5.       As soon as you can handle them, gently and quickly rub garlic on the topside of bread.  If you like a lot of garlic, do the same to the other side.

6.       Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil on top of the slices. 

7.       Transfer slices from cookie sheet to a serving platter. 

8.       Let guests spoon some of Topping 1 or Topping 2 on their slice, if desired.  I prefer to eat them plain.

9.       Repeat previous steps for rest of bread.

Brodo I

This is Marcella Hazan’s broth recipe.

1 tsp. salt

1 carrot, peeled

1 stalk celery, without strings

1 small yellow onion, peeled

1 small potato, peeled

¼ green pepper

1 canned Italian tomato (1 tomato, not 1 can of tomatoes)

6-8 cups assorted bones and meat scraps (beef, veal, chicken bones)


1.            Place everything in a 12-quart pot, filled almost to the top with water.

2.            Bring to a boil with cover askew.

3.            Simmer for 2-3 hours, skimming of scum from the top.

4.            Store uncovered in refrigerator.   Remove hardened fat from the top.

5.            Strain broth.


Brodo II

This is my sister’s beef broth recipe.  It can form the basis of many recipes.  It goes particularly well with her tortellini.

1 beef soup bone with beef

1 package regular bones

1 onion, peeled

2 carrots, peeled

2 stalks celery, without strings

1 Tbl. parsley

1 tsp. peppercorn

1 Tbl. salt


6.            Place bones in a 12-quart (gallon?) pot, filled almost to the top with water.

7.            Skim off fat after it boils, then add onion, carrots, celery, parsley, peppercorn, and salt.

8.            Simmer for 3 hours.


My sister has been perfecting this tortellini recipe for many years.  It is best served with her beef broth.


2 cups minced chicken meat (leftovers from a meal of free-range chicken or poached chicken breasts, minced in food processor)

1 cup whole milk ricotta (freshly made, otherwise Calabro brand, else Polly-O brand)

1 egg yolk

¼ tsp. grated lemon peel

¼ tsp. grated whole nutmeg

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper



2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (or 200 g Antico Caputo Semola di Grano Duro Rimacinata and 90 g all-purpose flour)

4 eggs plus 4 egg whites

4 Tbl. olive oil

4 tsp. salt


1.            Place dough ingredients into a bowl.  Sprinkle a little bit of water.  Mix and gather up dough into a ball.  Sprinkle a little more water if necessary.

2.            Knead the dough for 10 minutes.  Let dough rest for ½ hour covered.  Knead dough and rest ½ hour 2 more times.

3.            Mix filling thoroughly.  This can be done during one of the previous ½ hour rest periods.

4.            Cut off piece of dough.  Roll it out on the widest setting, which is #1 on my Ampia brand pasta machine.  Fold over ends to square them, and then send it through again.  You can roll out a bunch of these at a time.

5.            Send each piece through an intermediary setting then the final setting that should yield a thickness of about 1 mm (same as for ravioli or spaghetti dough). Be sure to flour the receiving area very well to prevent sticking after the tortellini is cut.

6.            Using a floured glass with a 2” diameter edge cut out circles along the rolled out dough.  You’ll obviously need to zigzag to make maximum use of the dough. 

7.            Place ½ tsp. filling in the middle of each cutout circle.  You can use a small cake-decorating bag for this or do it using a small spoon.

8.            Paint a thin layer of water onto each circle’s dough, particularly around the edges.  This will help seal it.

9.            For each circle, fold it over to make a half-moon (semi-circle).  Seal edge by pushing down with fingers all the way around.

10.        Pick up ends of the half moon with the thumb and forefinger of each hand.  Fold the endpoints back around until they meet with a little water in between them, then squeeze together to seal using thumb and forefinger of one hand.

11.        Place tortellini onto a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Do not stack the tortellini more than one high.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in a freezer. 

12.        The next day, put the tortellini in large freezer bags.

13.        The tortellini should be cooked in boiling water, not in the beef broth.  Place cooked tortellini in individual serving bowls, then cover with beef broth and serve immediately.






Ragù I

This is the official version of the Bolognese meat sauce (sugo alla Bolognese) as registered on October 17, 1982 by the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina.  It is served on tagliatelle or fettuccine, not with spaghetti.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

0.67 lb. (300 g) unsmoked pancetta, minced finely

3.56 oz. (100 g) finely chopped yellow onion

3.56 oz. (100 g) finely chopped carrot

3.56 oz. (100 g) finely chopped celery

1.33 lb. (600 g) fresh minced thin flank/skirt (or ground chuck)

2.13 oz. (60 g) Cento tomato paste

1 cup red or dry white wine (e.g., a Pinot)

1.52 cup (360 ml) whole milk

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper


1.       Ideally do this in an enameled cast-iron pot. 

2.       Sauté unsmoked pancetta in olive oil until it starts to release its fats.

3.       Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery.  Sauté until onion is translucent.

4.       Add ground chuck.  Break up with a wooden spoon.   Cook on medium –high until meat is lightly browned.   When it starts to pop it’s done.

5.       Add tomato paste and white wine.  Stir well.

6.       Add the milk a little at a time until it is all absorbed.

7.       Add salt and pepper.

8.       Cover and let simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  Check salt and pepper level after a while.

9.       Cook the tagliatelle or fettuccine.

10.   Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.   Alternatively, mix the pasta in a little butter and then ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano before adding the sauce.


Ragù II

This is Marcella Hazan’s version of Bolognese meat sauce.   It is usually served on tagliatelle or fettuccine.   We like it on pappardelle even though pappardelle is usually served with a wild animal sauce.   This is similar to the previous except it substitutes oil and butter for the pancetta, and tomatoes for tomato paste.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

4 Tbl. butter

heaping ¼ cup chopped yellow onion

heaping ¼ cup chopped carrot

heaping ¼ cup chopped celery

1 lb. fresh ground chuck

1 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cup dry white wine (e.g., a Pinot)

2/3 cup whole milk

¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1 28 oz. can Cento Certified San Marzano tomatoes (not the Organic variety)


1.       Ideally do this in an enameled cast-iron pot. 

2.       Sauté onion in olive oil and butter until translucent.

3.       Add carrot and celery and cook gently for a couple minutes.

4.       Add ground chuck and 1 tsp. salt.   Break up with a wooden spoon.   Cook until meat has lost its red color.

5.       Add white wine.  Cook at medium-high until all of the wine evaporates.   Stir occasionally.

6.       Turn heat down to medium.  Add milk and nutmeg.  Cook until the milk has evaporated.   Stir often.

7.       Add tomatoes and their juice (squeeze tomatoes using your hand and remove any big stems).   Wait for tomatoes to start bubbling, stirring occasionally, and then turn down heat to simmer.

8.       Let simmer for 3 ½ to 4 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally.



Ragù III

This is my sister’s version.  We normally make this version because it requires only 45 minutes of cooking time rather than 3-4 hours for the previous two.

2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil  (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

1 Tbl. butter

1 Rosemary sprig

1 bay leaf

1 mashed garlic clove

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped carrots

1 lb. chopped sirloin

1 cup red wine

1 28 oz. can Cento Certified San Marzano tomatoes (not the Organic variety)


1.       Sauté chopped sirloin in 1 Tbl. olive oil until slightly pink.

2.       Add red wine and cook until it evaporates.

3.       Remove meat and set aside.

4.       Add remaining 1 Tbl. olive oil and cook onions, celery, and carrots until wilted slightly.

5.       Add tomatoes and their juice (squeeze tomatoes using your hand), and partially cooked meat, and then barely simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

Risotto con Ragù

This recipe shows the basic idea behind making a risotto.  Essentially, you cook the rice rice in beef or chicken broth, adding broth 1-2 ladles at a time.  There are three types of rice you can use for risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano.   We prefer Carnaroli because it makes the creamiest risotto.   Vialone Nano makes an al dente risotto.  Toward the end, you add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  What differs from one risotto to another is the addition of some other ingredient, in this case, Bolognese sauce.  Other times, you may sauté vegetables and add them toward the end of cooking the rice.

1 Tbl.  extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

6 cups of simmering beef broth (store bought is also fine)

1 cup Carnaroli rice (which makes a creamier risotto than Arborio rice; Acquerello Carnaroli is the preferred risotto rice in Italy; if you prefer al dente risotto use Vialone Nano)

2 cups ragù sauce

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1.       Sauté rice in olive oil until nutty brown, which should be about 2 minutes.  A cast iron pot is recommended.

2.       Add Bolognese sauce and stir to coat.

3.       Over medium-high heat, add broth, one ladle at a time, to cook Arborio.  Note that sometimes more than one ladle of broth may be necessary to cover the rice, so don’t get too hung about the right amount.   The cooking can take 20 minutes.

4.       Before last ladleful, add all of the cheese and the butter.  Add the last broth and stir briefly until it has reached the desired creamy consistency.

5.       Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


Risotto cogli Asparagi e Zafferano

This is similar to the previous recipe, except with asparagus and saffron instead of Bolognese sauce.  Also, it uses white wine and chicken broth.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

2 Tbl. butter (optional)

48 oz. chicken broth

2 cup dry white wine

2 bunches of fresh asparagus (preferably in season and not with fat stalks, else just cut the asparagus into much shorter pieces)

3 cup Carnaroli rice (which makes a creamier risotto than Arborio rice; Acquerello Carnaroli is the preferred risotto rice in Italy; if you prefer al dente risotto use Vialone Nano)

large pinch of saffron threads, partially dissolved in ½ cup of hot water (use a small whisk to help it some)

1.5 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1.       Break off bottoms of asparagus and discard.  I usually choose the natural breaking point, which is toward the center of the stalk.

2.       Boil asparagus in broth until about 90% cooked.   Remove, cut into pieces about 1” in length, and set aside. 

3.       Add dry white wine to asparagus-flavored broth and keep at a simmer.

4.       Sauté rice in olive oil until nutty brown, which should be about 2 minutes.  A cast iron pot is recommended.  This can be done in parallel with cooking the asparagus, then turn off the heat.

5.       Over medium-high heat, add broth, one ladle at a time, to cook the rice.  Note that sometimes more than one ladle of broth may be necessary to cover the rice, so don’t get too hung about the right amount.   The cooking can take 20 minutes.

6.       After the first couple ladlesful, add the partially-dissolved saffron.  Adding it this early will give it time to dissolve fully.

7.       Keep adding one ladleful of broth at a time.  I like to use a large flat-edged spatula to stir the rice because it can scrape the bottom of the pot better than a wooden spoon.   Stir continually!

8.       Halfway through, add asparagus pieces.

9.       Before last ladleful, add all of the cheese and the optional butter.  Add the last broth and stir briefly until it has reached the desired creamy consistency.

10.   Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

11.   I’ve tried to make a large amount of this recipe for parties and have always had problems getting it to cook right.  I would suggest using multiple pots rather than trying to cook a lot of rice in one pot.   3-4 cups of rice per pot should work out fine, though.


Spaghettini coi Capperi e Mozzarella

This simple and unique recipe comes from Paola Console, a Florentine woman I knew many years ago.  Paola had one of those light-hearted, street-smart Italian attitudes that made you wonder if you really understood life.  Nothing more materialized beyond better spoken Italian and some good recipes like this one.  Then I met my wife, Wendy, and cut off all ties like a good boy.  Our family still refers to this as Paola’s Recipe.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

6 medium cloves garlic, chopped finely (avoid buying garlic that is already chopped)

A lot of fresh chopped basil or 1/3 of a 0.5 ounce bottle of dried basil

2 28 oz. cans Cento Certified San Marzano tomatoes (not the Organic variety)

2 tsp. salt (original recipe called for 3 tsp.)

2/3 of a 3.5 oz. bottle of tiny capers with juice

1.5 lb. De Cecco brand spaghettini (thin spaghetti, NOT cappellini)

½ lb. fresh mozzarella grated coarsely (NY style mozzarella that come in water balls are good)


1.       Start boiling water.

2.       Sauté’ garlic and basil in olive oil.

3.       Add tomatoes (squeeze them using your hand and remove any big stem ends), salt, and capers.  Bring to slow simmer.  Check salt level.

4.       In the meantime, cook spaghettini according to directions on package (9 min for De Cecco thin spaghetti)

5.       Mix sauce and pasta thoroughly, AND THEN add shredded mozzarella a little at a time.  It’s very difficult to mix the mozzarella in well and it helps to first mix the sauce.  My guess is that the sauce is able to dissolve the mozzarella better than water alone.

6.       Let sit for 5 minutes before eating. 

7.       This is one dish that tastes better reheated the next day.


Maccheroni con Sugo di Pomodoro

This is what we make when we don’t have the ingredients for the previous recipe.  It’s a simple, fresh sauce that can be used with any type of macaroni.   The sauce is not cooked very long.   It’s a quick meal.

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

5-6 medium cloves fresh garlic, chopped finely (avoid buying garlic that is already chopped)

A lot of fresh chopped basil or 1/3 of a 0.5 ounce bottle of dried basil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 28 oz. cans Cento Certified San Marzano tomatoes (not the Organic variety)

1 tsp. salt initially

milled black pepper to taste

1 lb. De Cecco brand macaroni (thin spaghetti, rigatoni, penne rigate, etc.)

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1.       Start boiling water.

2.       Sauté’ garlic, onion, and basil in olive oil.

3.       Add tomatoes (squeeze them using your hand and remove any big stem ends), salt, and pepper.  Bring to slow simmer.  Check salt level at some point.

4.       In the meantime, cook macaroni according to directions on package.

5.       Combine macaroni and sauce.  Mix thoroughly.   Mix in ½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

6.       Serve with remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.

Pesto di Basilico

Basil pesto is one of the easiest recipes to make.  The obstacle is finding the necessary quantity of basil leaves.  I normally go to an area produce distributor on a Saturday morning and buy a couple boxes of basil, each of which contains about 8-10 bunch of basil.  That's enough for two iterations of the recipe described here.

Blended Ingredients

4 cups of slightly packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

6 Tbl. pine nuts

4 garlic cloves without skin, smashed with the side of a large knife

1 tsp. salt


Added When Served

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

4 Tbl. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

6 Tbl. butter at room temperature (optional)


1.       Wash the basil and dry using paper towels. 

2.       I used to try to get every stem off the basil, but this is really not necessary.  Just try to remove the bottom part of the stem from each leaf.  Don't bother trying to remove the center stem that goes through the leaf - too much work.

3.       Place all the blended ingredients in an electric blender and blend.  You'll need to stop it mid-way and push the leaves down using a spatula. 

4.       If you don't plan to use the pesto, you may refrigerate it or freeze it at this point.

5.       Note that the raw pesto will taste very strong.  Don't be alarmed by this.  It will be much less potent once you mix it into something.

6.       Prior to use, stir in cheeses, and then soft butter.  If you'd like to cut back on some fat, the pesto actually tastes very good without the cheese or butter.

7.       Cook De Cecco brand macaroni according to the directions on the package.  Penne rigate, fusilli, and conchigliette are good macaroni for basil pesto.

8.       Do not cook the pesto.  Add pesto until cooked macaroni is flavored to your satisfaction.  Note that you will use only part of the above recipe for a pound of pasta, so don't blindly pour it all in.

9.       Serve with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.


Pizza Napoletana

This is not exactly how they make it in Naples, but it’s fairly close for now.  I’ll be updating the recipe later.  The key to any pizza crust is a hot oven, ideally around 725F (385C).  I preheat my oven to broil (500F) for an hour.  I used to have a pizza stone but now use a 3/8”carbon steel plate that I had cut to size by a local metal worker.  Steel definitely retains heat better and thus delivers a crisper crust.  In fact, getting the pizza steel as hot as possible is probably more important than the actual oven temperature.  In the coming year, I might get a compact outdoor unit that burns wood pellets and can get up to 925F (pizza cooks in 60 seconds).

Dough (for 4 pizzas)

3 ½ cups Antimo Caputo “00” Pizzeria flour (blue label) or Antico Caputo “00” Chef’s flour (red/white label)

1 1/3 cup warm water (100-110F)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tsp active dry yeast (Red Star non-instant is a good brand; Italians use fresh “lievito di birra” beer yeast cubes which are ubiquitous in Europe but hard to find here and likely not worth the effort)


1.       Dissolve sugar in the warm water (100-110F), and then dissolve in the active dry yeast.  Let sit covered for 15 minutes to proof the yeast.  If it doesn’t produce a foam over almost the entire surface, the yeast is weak.   I recommend buying yeast in small packets and small quantities to avoid having yeast in your refrigerator for too long.   I bought 2 lbs of yeast once and it went bad much faster than expected.

2.       Mix salt into dry flour.

3.       Gradually add flour a little at a time until all is combined. 

4.       Knead dough in bowl and then out of bowl for about 10 minutes.  Add a tiny amount of flour until the dough is tacky but not coming off onto your fingers a lot.

5.       Cut the dough into 4 even chunks.  

6.       Form them into smooth balls. 

7.       Coat the dough balls very lightly with vegetable oil, put them in a rectangular storage container about 6 inches high or into bowls, then cover securely with its top or with plastic wrap.  If I’m only making half the recipe, I always use bowels.

8.       Let them rise for 2 hours at room temperature.  You can also put them in the refrigerator for 1-2 days but be sure to let them get back to room temperature before making the pizzas.

9.       Preheat oven to broil (maximum temperature, typically 500F or 550F) with pizza steel on next-to-top rack (around 2.5 to 3” from heating element).  Let this heat up for one hour.  We want the steel to be hotter than Dante’s Inferno. 

10.   When it’s time to roll out the dough, do not use a rolling pin.  Instead use your finger tips to gradually spread out the dough into an increasingly larger circle.  Flip it over and do the same thing to the other side.  Repeat a few times until the dough is about 7” in diameter.  One nice thing about using a gluten-free flour like “00” is that it won’t keep springing back to its original shape.  It’s easier to spread it out than normal-flour dough. 

11.   Repeatedly pick up the dough with your left hand, flip it onto your right hand to stretch it, then slap it down onto a lightly floured surface.  Do this until the dough has reached the desired diameter (12 inches).  Ideally the middle comes out ½ cm thick and the edge comes out 1-2 cm thick.

12.   Spread a little cornmeal on the paddle and place the dough on the paddle before adding any ingredients. 

13.   I make a couple different toppings which are described below.

14.   Before trying to put the dough onto the pizza steel, shake the paddle a little to make sure the dough is loose on the paddle and will slip off easily.

15.   Slip the pizza onto the hot steel and close the door.  

16.   The oven in still on broil, so set an alarm for one minute.  Turn the pizza 180 degrees.  Pizza spinners help with this.  After another minute, the top will be close to what you want it to look like, but it depends on who close the pizza is to the top of the heating element.  On my oven the top of the pizza is about 2 to 2.5” inches from the heating element.

17.   Now switch the oven to bake, rotate the pizza again, and cook for another minute.  Total cooking time is about 3 minutes but, once more, it depends on how close you are to the heating element and how done you want the top to look.

18.   Remove pizza, switch back to broil, and wait for oven temperature to get back to its maximum and for the steel to get really hot again..  Repeat with the next pizza.




Neapolitan Tomato Puree (Passata di Pomodoro)

1 28 oz can Cento Certified San Marzano tomatoes (not the Organic variety)

1/4 tsp salt (for starters)

optional: crushed garlic, chopped fresh basil, and black pepper to taste


1.       Remove area of tomato where stem was attached.  Cut open and remove as many seeds as you can.

2.       Pour tomatoes into a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl.  We are trying to save the pulp, not the liquid.   Use your fingers to break up the tomatoes in the strainer.  Remove more seeds using a small spoon.

3.       Let the tomatoes drain their liquid for at least 15 minutes.   Save the pulp and discard the liquid.

4.       In a small bowl, combine pulp and salt. 

5.       Puree the tomatoes using a hand-held blender or a small food processor.

6.       Taste for salt level.  You may need to add another 1/8 to 1/4 tsp.

7.       Once you have made this basic Neapolitan sauce and know what it tastes like, you’ll very likely want to add some more spices, such as 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic, some chopped fresh basil, and ¼ tsp of black pepper.  I recommend doing that gradually and tasting along the way.

8.       Allow the puree (passata) to sit covered at room temperature for a few hours OR refrigerate up to 4 days.  If possible, make the day before.

9.       Don’t put too much puree on the pizza dough.  You don’t want to overdo it.   You should get 1-2 pizzas with this much puree.

10.   Put broken-up mozzarella pieces on the pizza after the sauce, then 6-8 basil leaves, then pour a small spiral stream of extra virgin olive oil.





White Topping (our favorite)

extra virgin olive oil (Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin, which is the same as Sagra in Italy; or Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin)

whole milk Ricotta – (freshly made is ideal, otherwise Calabro brand)

mozzarella – cut NY mozzarella balls into thin filets and dry on paper towel OR break up into small pieces

basil leaf


1.       Follow directions above for preparing dough and getting it on the paddle.

2.       Distribute the ingredients on the pizza dough in the above order.  You may want to use a brush for the olive oil.







Pasta all’Uovo

Italians use semola di grano duro rimacinata (re-milled durum wheat flour) in their homemade egg pasta dough which gives it the yellow-ish color and firmer consistency.  It also seems smoother when rolling it out.  Many Italians, including my cousins in Italy, use 70-80% semola and 20-30% all-purpose flour (tipo 0 manitoba in Italy).  Having some all-purpose flour in there makes it easier to work with.   Here we’re going to use 1 kg of flour.  We normally make fettuccine and use the recipe that follows for the all’Alfredo.  The rule of thumb in Italy is one egg per 100g of flour.  I have found that I consistently need about 1.4 USA large eggs per 100g of flour, which is consistent with what my mother told me (2 eggs per cup of flour).   Perhaps Italy has large chickens, I don’t know.  In any case, it’s easier to add flour to a sticky dough than to add an egg to a stiff dough.  If you get stuck with a stiff dough and don’t feel you can work with it, mix an egg with a little flour to create a very sticky tiny dough, then knead that tiny dough into the larger dough.

700g Antico Caputo Semola di Grano Duro Rimacinata (70%)

300g King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (30%) which is similar to Antico Caputo Tipo “0” Manitoba

14 large eggs


1.       Weigh the flours using a kitchen scale, put them in a bowl, and mix them some by hand.

2.       Make a well in the middle of the flour.

3.       Break all the eggs and pour them into the well.

4.       Starting with your fingers on one hand, scramble the eggs and start mixing in flour from the sides of the well.  Keep doing this until you can’t really do it any more.

5.       Then use your hand to fold over the dough and rotate the bowl as you’re going. 

6.       Once the dough is basically together, put it on a semola-floured surface and continue to knead the dough in a circular fashion.  Fold over the dough past the halfway point, flatten it down with your palm, and rotate.  As you do this, the outside of the dough should get more circular and smoother.  Do this for 10 minutes until the dough is reasonably smooth.  It’s ok if the dough is slightly sticky.  However, if dough is coming off a lot on your hands and counter, then it needs more flour.  Spray a little down on the counter under the dough and knead it into the dough. 

7.       Cut the dough in half and snugly cover one half with plastic wrap.  If you are not ready to make the pasta, you can snugly cover the entire dough with plastic wrap and let it sit for a half hour or even a couple hours.  A rest will only make it softer and easier to work with. 

8.       With the other half, cut off a piece, coat it in semola flour, and use a rolling pin to flatten it.

9.       Put the piece through #1 on your pasta maker, fold it over on itself, and put it through again.  Repeat 2-3 more times.   For ravioli dough, in particular, you’d like the ends to be square.

10.   Put it through #2, #3, etc. until it’s the desired thickness, about 1mm.  This depends on the machine and you may need to dial in between two settings.  You might want to flour the surface a little before you roll it out, particularly for ravioli on the final setting.

11.   If you are making ravioli, STOP here and return to the Ravioli recipe in the Immigrant section. Otherwise, …

12.   Put each piece through the fettuccine or spaghetti part of the pasta machine. Cut it every 8-10 as it comes out.  Curl up the pasta loosely and place on a semola-floured tray.   It is possible to add another layer but it’s better if you don’t stack them.   Even better, use a pasta drying rack.

13.   If you plan to cook it immediately, leave it out.  In fact, you don’t really even need a tray in that case.   Otherwise it should go in the freezer immediately then get bagged the next day and put back in the freezer.

14.   We also make pappardelle (very wide fettuccine) by cutting it by hand with a pizza or ravioli cutter. 

15.   Sometimes we use a pasta “chitarra” (guitar) to cut the fettuccine or spaghetti.  It creates a different texture and size.  Once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty quickly and is fun to do.   I’d also like to learn how to roll out the dough using only a very long rolling pin.

16.   When you add it to the boiling water, add a little salt, and be sure to separate the pasta in the water early and often.  Unless it’s really stuck together due to accidental stacking, it should eventually separate.

17.   Homemade spaghetti noodles are very easy to overcook.  I suggest taking them out of the water a little earlier than you think and letting them finish cooking during the draining and mixing with the sauce.



Fettuccine all’Alfredo

Few people in Italy are aware of this otherwise world-famous recipe.  Alfredo owns a small restaurant in Rome and named the recipe after himself.  The address is close to Piazza Navona: Via della Scrofa 104, 00186 Roma. This is incredibly easy to make, probably easier than making the fresh sauce above. If you have time, try making homemade fettuccine using the previous recipe but you will want to weigh the pasta as it includes the weight of the eggs.   This recipe has been doubled because we like to eat this as leftovers.   Fun factoid: it takes about 600 liters (158 gallons) of milk to make one wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano – that may explain why it costs so much.  I get my Parmigiano-Reggiano directly from a dairy in Italy and the fresh heavy cream from a local dairy that uses grass-fed cows.   Grating the nutmeg is a must.

2 lb. De Cecco brand fettuccine (or homemade fettuccine as shown in the previous recipe)

2 cup fresh heavy cream (ideally from local grass-fed cows)

6 Tbl. butter

1 tsp salt

1 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (or a little more)

milled black pepper to taste

1 whole nutmeg grated finely


1.       Put roughly 2/3 of the heavy cream and all of the butter in a cast iron pan (other 1/3 of cream is added later).  Simmer until thickened.  Turn off heat.

2.       In the meantime, cook fettuccine according to directions on package.  Drain.

3.       Transfer fettuccine to pan, coat well over low heat. 

4.       Add rest of cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cheese.  Toss until cream is thickened.

5.       Serve immediately, optionally with extra cheese and grated nutmeg on the side.



Homemade ricotta is one of the easiest cheeses to make and takes about 20 minutes.  “Ricotta” means recooked, which comes from the fact that whey from prior cheese making is reheated to coagulate additional proteins and fat in the form of ricotta cheese.  In most recipes, including this one, we use whole milk and heavy cream rather than whey.  It’s important to get the freshest whole milk and cream that you can find, preferably from local grass-fed cows.  I am currently getting these from a local dairy, Maple View Farm.  This recipe makes a little more than 1.5 pounds.  We typically use it as a ravioli filling or a pizza topping.  This is so easy and good that I no longer buy ricotta.

16 cups (one gallon) of fresh WHOLE milk, preferably from grass-fed cows

2 cups fresh heavy cream, preferably from grass-fed cows (4 cups if making a ricotta spread)

1 ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt flakes

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (you can get more juice if the lemons are at room temperature)


1.       Heat milk and cream to 190F (88C), stirring often.  Once the milk gets a little warm (early in the process), add the salt.

2.       Remove pot from heat.

3.       Add lemon juice, stir 3-4 times around.

4.       Put top on pot and let sit completely undisturbed for 5 minutes.

5.       Meanwhile, line a colander with four layers of cheese cloth and place the colander over a large bowl or something else that can catch excess water.

6.       Scoop out the ricotta curds, drip-drain them, and place on the cheese cloth.  Don’t break them up.

7.       Fold over the ends of the cheese cloth to cover and let drain for two hours (one hour if making a ricotta spread).

8.       Place the ricotta into a plastic container, cover top surface of ricotta with plastic wrap, put the plastic top on, and keep in the refrigerator.   It should keep for 3 days but I would try to use it within a day.


Appendix A: Ingredients


It’s no secret that ingredients are the most important part of Italian cooking.  I’m always looking for higher-quality ingredients and have made many changes over the years.  





Used For

Where to Buy






De Cecco

quick pasta meals




ditto (2nd choice)







Antico Caputo Semola di Grano Duro Rimacinata

pasta dough



King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour




Antico Caputo 00 Pizzeria Flour

pizza Napoletana







Acquerello Carnaroli

creamy risotto



Melotti Riso Vialone Nano IGP

al dente risotto







Parmigiano-Reggiano 3-Year Aged

native recipes, snacking

(direct from a dairy is best)

local grocery

(not as good but ok)


Locatelli Pecorino Romano


immigrant recipes

local grocery



Pecorino Gran Reserva

snacking (mild Pecorino)


Calabro Whole Milk Ricotta

pasta filling, pizza topping

Whole Foods


Polly-O Whole Milk Ricotta

ditto (2nd choice)

local grocery






Cento Crushed Tomatoes

immigrant sauce

local Walmart

(do not order cans online, will come dented)


Cento Certified San Marzano Tomatoes

(avoid Organic variety, not as tender)

native recipes

local Walmart


Contadina Tomato Paste

immigrant sauce

local Walmart


Cento Tomato Paste








Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

(identical to Sagra Extra Virgin sold in Italy)




Filippo Berio Robusto Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 slightly stronger version of previous



De Carlo Felice Garibaldi Extra Virgin Olive Oil

topping for ravioli, bread dipping, bruschetta



Filippo Berio Olive Oil (for sautéing and grilling)

immigrant salad







Sasso Aceto di Vino Riserva (red wine vinegar)

immigrant salad






McCormick Paprika

immigrant sausage



Simply Organic Fennel Seeds

immigrant sausage



McCormick Whole Nutmeg

ravioli, Alfredo sauce, baking



Ravida Sea Salt

immigrant salad, finishing salt, cheese-making



Appendix B: Utensils


[under construction]


Appendix C: Measurement Conversions




1 lb


1 oz (weight)


3.56 oz (weight)


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


(my measurement, others report 130g)

1 cup semola di grano duro rimacinata


(my measurement)

1 cup 00 flour


(my measurement)

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano


(my measurement)

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


1 cup Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice


(my measurement)

1 medium egg (Italy)


1 large egg (USA)


1 extra large egg (USA)


1 fluid cup

236.588 mL

1 fluid quart

946.352 mL

1 fluid tablespoon (Tbl)

14.49 mL

1 fluid teaspoon (tsp)

4.93 mL

1 pinch (1/16 tsp)

0.31 mL

Section I: