Immigrant and Native Italian Cooking


Copyright © 2004-2017 by Robert A. Alfieri and Genevieve P. Hill.  All rights reserved.


Last update: December 19, 2015


Section I:


Chicken Soup

Little Meatballs for Soup

Crepes for Soup

Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs, Escarole, and Rice

Croutons for Soup

Lentil and Rice Soup

Pasta with Chick Peas

Cannellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

Mamma Alfieri’s Italian Sausage

Macaroni, Italian Sausage, and Broccoli

Meatballs for Sauce

Italian Sausage for Sauce

The Sauce

Ravioli Filling

Stuffed Shells or Manicotti


Pizza Dough

White Pizza

Chocolate Cookies

White Cookies



Section II:    Native-Italian


Il Brodo I

Il Brodo II


Il Ragu` I (Sugo alla Bolognese)

Il Ragu` II (Sugo alla Bolognese)

Il Ragu` III (Sugo alla Bolognese)

Risotto con Ragu`

Risotto cogli Asparagi

Spaghettini coi Capperi e Mozzarella

Maccheroni con Sugo di Pomodoro

Pesto di Basilico

Spaghettini Aglio e Olio

Fettuccine all’Alfredo

Ravioli al Patate e Rosmarino


Section I:   


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

3 stalks celery, as many strings removed as possible

3 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.

1.       Spoon off any scum.

2.       Add celery, carrots, and parsley.

3.       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.

4.       There is no need to stir the soup.

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

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

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

8.       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.

9.       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 2 1/2 lbs. of chopped sirloin instead of 3 lbs. of chopped sirloin or ground round.  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 bleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury’s Best)

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.  The Italian word for escarole is scarola, pronounced scah-ROH-lah (or scah-ROHL in the southern dialects).    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. bleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury’s Best)

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.

 Lentil and Rice Soup

Here is another soup recipe from my mother. 

1 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 Tbl. olive oil

½ lb. bag of dry lentils

1 cup rice




1.   Cook rice for 15 minutes.  Save water.

2.   Sauté onion, celery, and carrot in olive oil until soft.

3.   Add rinsed and drained lentils.  Stir to coat with olive oil.

4.   Add water to cover and cook until soft – about 20-25 minutes.

5.   Add rice to pot and enough cooking water to reach desired thickness.

6.   Add salt and pepper to taste.


Pasta with Chick Peas

This recipe comes from Grandma Pompilia Dianetti, my mom’s mother.  She was a piece of work.  As far back as I can remember, she would call the house and proclaim that she was dying.  She lived to be 98 ½.  I could never understand how she couldn’t learn reasonable English after living in the USA for 75 years.  I once put her on the phone with her long-lost sister in Italy.  Her sister said, “Pompilia, come stai?” to which my grandma replied (in English), “Oh, pretty good.”


1/3 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1-2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 large clove of garlic, crushed with a knife

1 ?? oz. can of drained chick peas (Cento brand Ceci is good)

½ lb. tubetti or diatelli pasta (De Cecco or Barilla brand is best)


1.   Cook pasta until al dente (use directions on pasta).  Save 2 cups of cooking liquid.

2.   Cook onion and garlic in oil slowly for 10-20 minutes and until onion is golden brown.

3.   Add chick peas, salt and pepper, and coat with oil.  Optionally add crushed red pepper flakes.

4.   Add pasta and saved cooking liquid.  Add bouillon cubes.

5.   Gently heat until cubes are dissolved.



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 (Sagra brand is our favorite)

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.


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.  I normally buy about 15 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 cheap digital spice scale and I just use my digital packing scale for the larger one.



10 lb. boned, trimmed, and cubed pork butts (weight is for resultant cubes)

Hog casings

Meat grinder

2 oz. salt, carefully weighed

1 cup water

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

0.5 oz. black pepper, carefully weighed

0.5 oz. crushed red pepper, carefully weighed

0.6 oz. fennel seed (I use Simply Organic brand), carefully weighed


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 a little more 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.  My beast of a grinder never has this problem, of course. 

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.



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-TSAYZ-zay)

Same as Mild version above, except:

NO paprika

NO fennel

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 D is the closest to what I remember and what I currently have specified above.































Dominic 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.

Macaroni, Italian 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 little time to prepare beyond boiling the macaroni.

1 lb. medium-sized shell macaroni (De Cecco 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 of 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 and cook for amount of time on box.

5.   Once macaroni is done, drain.

6.   Mix drained broccoli and macaroni with cooked sausage in large bowl.  No need to 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 or ground round

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.

Italian 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 type of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste you use don’t really matter.  They and the spices are secondary.  The flavor comes from the meat.    Native Italians are missing out by flatly rejecting meatballs (polpettoni) in sauce.

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 cheap crushed tomatoes (Cento brand is always good, otherwise Contadina is fine)

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

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.  The nutmeg is the only significant change I’ve ever made to one of my mom’s recipes. 

6 lb. whole milk ricotta (if you can’t find it in an Italian deli, try to find Polly-O brand whole milk ricotta, never use part-skim ricotta!)

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


Note: the eggs give the filling body after it has been cooked.


1.       For the parsley, the easiest way to chop it is to gradually cut off the top leaves from the whole bunch.   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.


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.


When I make homemade pasta, 95% 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 3 and 6-year-old children love to help and it’s great to have an extra set of hands to turn the crank.  The water in the ravioli dough serves two purposes: it makes the dough more pliable and it downplays the dough’s flavor and density so that the filling stands out more once the ravioli are cooked.  Water is not used in my mom’s spaghetti dough, as it isn’t in most pasta dough recipes.


12 large eggs at room temperature

12 cups bleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury’s Best)

2 cups warm water

2 Tbl. olive oil



1 recipe Ravioli Filling


1.       Clear out a large surface, such as a kitchen island.  If you don’t have a granite counter top, I recommend getting a large piece of acrylic and securing it under the clamped pasta machine.

2.       If you’re not accustomed to kneading a lot of dough, I recommend splitting this recipe in half and mixing it in two separate sets of bowls. 

3.       Scramble eggs, water, and olive oil in smaller bowl.

4.       Measure flour into large bowl, being careful not to lose count of the number of cups. The easiest and most accurate way to measure the flour is to use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup.  

5.       Make a “well” in the middle of the flour.

6.       Pour egg mixture into the well.

7.       Use a fork to grab a little flour at a time and mix it into the egg in the middle of the well.  Eventually, you’ll no longer be able to do this and you’ll need to use your hands to knead the rest of the flour into the dough.  I recommend doing this in the larger bowl.

8.       Get it all together.  Don’t add too much flour.  Put dough on working surface.  Knead dough by pulling one side of dough across the center of the dough and pushing very hard with your hand.  Continue rotating the dough a little of the time and kneading in this fashion for a total of about 10 minutes.  Don’t add too much flour at this time, but it should not be very sticky either.  A little sticky at this point is ok.

9.       Cover dough with upside-down bowl.  Wait ½ hour.

10.   Knead again for another 5 minutes.  You’ll notice that the dough had gotten smoother on its own during that ½ hour of rest. 

11.   Repeat step 9 two more times with a ½ hour rest between each kneading.  Add just enough flour so dough is not sticky.  Wait a ½ hour after the last kneading.

12.   Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.  I always use it the same day, but you could store it in the refrigerator.

13.   Cut dough in half.  Cover the other half with plastic wrap.

14.   Cut the remaining half into 8 even-sized pieces and shape each into an oval.

15.   Roll out each piece into an oval, adding flour.

16.   Put a piece through the pasta machine at the widest setting.  On my Ampia brand pasta machine, this is setting #1. 

17.   Fold over ends to square them.  This is what I call the “Milo Method” because we learned it from Gilda Milo, the mother-in-law of my uncle Alex.  The amount to fold over the ends varies and depends on how wide the dough needs to be.  You may need to overlap the folding of the two ends.

18.   Run the piece through the same setting again, with the squarest end going in first.  You may need to add flour.   Once it has gone through, feel free to reshape it so that it is as rectangular as possible.  Ideally, you want the piece to be about 4” wide at this point.  If you didn’t fold it exactly the right way in the previous step, you can reshape the dough here to be the proper width by stretching it lengthwise.

19.   Repeat steps 15-18 for the other pieces.  You can stack the pieces, adding a little flour between to avoid sticking.

20.   Change the setting on your pasta machine to typically its second thinnest setting.  On my Ampia brand pasta machine, this is setting #6 (my machine goes to #7).  This will yield pasta that is about 1/16” thick.

21.   At this point you must flour WELL the surface onto which the rolled out dough will come out.   Otherwise, the ravioli will stick to the surface after you cut it.

22.   Run pasta piece through the pasta machine.  Be careful not to pull on the piece as it’s coming out unless it’s obviously too wide.  That’s why it’s great to have an extra set of hands to help insert the piece and to turn the crank on the pasta machine.  Ideally, each piece should come out about 6” wide.

23.   Using a large cake decorating bag, add the filling spaced at 3” intervals along the pasta piece.  Each filling bog should be about 1.5” in diameter.  Be sure not to add any flour on the exposed side of the pasta piece, otherwise it won’t seal well.

24.   Starting at one end of the piece, fold over dough until its ends meet up closely.  Keep your hands space apart about 12” so that the dough doesn’t fall into the filling.  Work your way down the piece in this fashion until it is all folded over and meets edge-to-edge.

25.   Cup your hands, overlapping them 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 too closely to the filling.  It will need some room to breath otherwise it could explode when cooked.

26.   Assuming you’re right-handed, start at the right of the dough.  Cut out ravioli using nice semi-circle cuts with a zig-zag-edged ravioli cutter.  Try to include as much dough as possible by running the cutter up toward the top edge of the dough, then back down to the point on the bottom edge of the dough that is precisely in the middle of the current blob and the one to the left.  Start the next cutting at the precise point where the last one finished on the bottom edge of the dough. 

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

28.   Find the largest cookie sheet that can fit in your freezer and line it with wax paper.  You’ll be stacking ravioli 3-high.

29.   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.  Normally, you’ll want to fork about ¾” of the edge around the raviolo.  Children can help with this task if they can keep up.

30.   Place ravioli on the wax paper described in step 27.  On a given layer, try to alternate orientation so that they are packed as closely as possible but not overlapping.  Once a layer is full, cover with another layer of wax paper.  Once you have 3 layers cover well with aluminum foil and place immediately in the freezer with nothing stacked on it.

31.   Repeat previous steps until all ravioli are made.

32.   Make spaghetti or fettuccine out of wasted dough scraps.  Knead the scraps together, not adding any flour.  It already has too much flour.  Cut into pieces.  Run each piece through settings 1, 2, 4, 6 to gradually stretch it out.  As it lengthens you’ll likely want to cut them in halves or thirds to make them shorter.  Run each final piece through the spaghetti or fettuccine section of the pasta machine.  Curl up pasta into nests and store on a cookie sheet.  We usually eat these the same day.  Otherwise you can put them in the freezer.

33.   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.

34.   If you froze the spaghetti and fettuccine made from scrap dough, you can take that out and put it into plastic bags, too.  If you plan to eat it soon, it is easier to just leave it on the cookie sheets.

35.   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. 

36.   The ravioli are not done until they are 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.  When to take it out depends on how al dente you want the edges to be.  You may need to repeat this.  

37.   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 generous sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano.  Cover well with layer of sauce.  Lightly sprinkle more Pecorino Romano on top. 

38.   The ravioli are also excellent, possibly better, without sauce.  In this case, place ravioli on a large wide platter, not overlapping them.  Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil then a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano and serve immediately to avoid melting the cheese.  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.

Pizza Dough

My sister’s pizza dough can be used as the basis of any pizza, cooked best on the grill.  Lately, I just buy frozen pizza dough from Whole Foods and it’s quite good.  

3 cups whole wheat or white unbleached flour

1 Tbl. sugar

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. oregano leaves

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup very warm water (120-130 F)

2 Tbl. softened butter



1.       Mix 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, oregano, and undissolved yeast.

2.       Add water and butter, and then heat for 2 minutes.

3.       Continue to stir in remaining flour to achieve a stiff dough.

4.       Knead dough for 8-10 minutes.

5.       Set in greased bowl and cover with cloth.

6.       Rise in warm place for about 2 hours.

7.       Punch down dough.

8.       Divide and use in favorite pizza recipes.


White Pizza

           My recipe for making white pizza and getting a good crust..  

Pizza dough (usually I just get Whole Foods’ frozen pizza dough, which is about $2.50 and makes two pizzas)

Extra virgin olive oil

Ricotta – for this I use Calabro’s whole milk ricotta from Whole Foods (not cheap but you don’t need much)

Mozzarella – usually I just use Sorrento brand from B.J.’s, but any bagged shredded mozzarella is fine (or you could get the good NY stuff from Whole Foods and shred it yourself)

Basil leaf

Pizza stone

Pizza paddle (preferably two)



1.       Preheat oven to 500F (maximum) with pizza stone on middle rack.  Let this heat up for one hour.  This is the key to getting good crust.

2.       Cut pizza dough (Whole Foods one anyway) in half.  Shape into circle on large pizza paddle or counter.  Using some flour, roll it out to a larger circle.

3.       At this point, I throw the pizza up in the air to get it to a much larger circle to fill the pizza paddle.  When throwing it, I rotate it as I toss it and let it land on my knuckles to avoid breaking it.  If you don’t feel comfortable with this step, you can just keep rolling it out.

4.       Place dough on pizza paddle with some cornmeal on it. 

5.       Fork dough to help it avoid blowing up in the oven.

6.       Throw a little cornmeal on the pizza stone.  Let dough cook for 4 minutes.  This will toughen it up and make it easier to put ingredients on it.  Halfway through, open oven door and use fork to pop exploded dough and push it down.

7.       Take pizza dough out of oven.

8.       Brush on a thin layer of olive oil.

9.       Add mozzarella, ricotta (spread out as best possible), and chopped basil leaf.

10.   Put back in oven for 5 minutes, basically until cheese is melted.

11.   Take out and cut immediately on pizza paddle.

12.   It helps to have another paddle for preparing another pizza while one is being eaten, etc.

 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. bleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury’s Best), 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 Luke-warm 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 bleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury’s Best)

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 pit-ten-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 10 pittenguises.




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. flour (such as Pillsbury’s Best All-Purpose bleached)

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”.   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” 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.   I’d recommend waiting 24 hours before eating any. 



Section II:               N

Section III:          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 (Sagra is our favorite brand for cooking, but for like something a little stronger on bruschetta, try DeCarlo Felice Garibaldi)


Topping 1

extra virgin olive oil

grape tomatoes (some cut in half, some not)

tiny NY-style mozzarella balls

a little salt


Topping 2

extra virgin olive oil

grilled peppers, cut up

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


[probably want to move toppings into separate recipes]


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 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.

Il 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.


Il Brodo II

This is my sister’s beef broth recipe.  It can form the basis of many recipes.  It goes particular 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

1 egg yolk

¼ tsp. grated lemon peel

¼ tsp. grated whole nutmeg

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper



2 cups unbleached flour (King Arthur’s is a good brand)

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).  On my Ampia brand machine, this is setting #6 (#7 is too thin).  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.






Il Ragu` I (Sugo alla Bolognese)

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

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Sagra is our favorite brand)

2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil (Sagra is our favorite brand)

2/3 lb. unsmoked pancetta, minced finely

3.5 oz. finely chopped yellow onion

3.5 oz. finely chopped carrot

3.5 oz. finely chopped celery

1 1/3 lb. fresh ground chuck

2.25 oz. tomato paste

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

1 ½ cup 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 fettucine.

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.


Il Ragu` II (Sugo alla Bolognese)

This is Marcella Hazan’s version of Bolognese meat sauce.   It is usually served on tagliatelle or fettucine.   We like it on pappardelle even though pappardelle is usually served with a wild animal sauce.   Unlike most versions, it has only a hint of tomatoes.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (Sagra is our favorite brand)

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


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.



Il Ragu` III (Sugo alla Bolognese)

This is my sister’s version.  It is best served on pasta, on tortellini, or in risotto.

2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil  (Sagra is our favorite brand)

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


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 Ragu`

This recipe shows the basic idea behind making a risotto.  Essentially, you cook Arborio rice in beef or chicken broth, adding broth 1-2 ladleful’s at a time.  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 (Sagra is our favorite brand)

1 Tbl. butter

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

1 cup Arborio rice

2 cups ragu` 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

This is similar to the previous recipe, except with asparagus instead of Bolognese sauce.  This technique can be used for other vegetables, such as zucchini.  You might also want to try adding some saffron instead of or in addition to a vegetable. [We’ve recently started adding shredded poached chicken to this dish and will need to update this recipe]

1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil (Sagra is our favorite brand)

1 Tbl. butter

6 cups of beef broth (or chicken broth)

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 bunch of fresh asparagus (preferably in season and not with fat stalks)

1 cup Arborio rice

½ 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.

5.       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.

6.       Toward the end, add asparagus pieces.  Adding the asparagus too early will make it mushy.

7.       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.

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

9.       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.

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 (Sagra is our favorite brand)

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

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 (Sagra is our favorite brand)

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

1 tsp. salt initially

milled black pepper to taste

1 lb. De Cecco brand macaroni (thin spaghetti, rigatoni, penne, 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 (Sagra is our favorite brand)

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.


Spaghettini Aglio e Olio

The only thing simpler than this recipe is heating up canned sauce.

½ cup plus 1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil (Sagra is our favorite brand)

2 tsp. finely chopped garlic

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 Tbl. chopped parsley

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


1.       Sauté’ garlic and salt in 2 cups olive oil while water boils.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic – watch it closely.

2.       Cook spaghettini according to directions on package.

3.       Transfer cooked spaghettini to warm bowl, mix in oil and garlic, add pepper and parsley, then last 1 Tbl. olive oil.

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. 

1 lb. De Cecco brand fettuccine (or homemade using previous pasta recipe – TBD)

1 cup heavy cream

3 Tbl. butter

½ tsp. salt

2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

milled black pepper to taste

½ of a whole nutmeg grated finely


1.       Put 2/3 of cream and all of the butter in a cast iron pan (other 1/3 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, cut well over low heat.  Add rest of cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cheese.  Toss until cream is thickened.

4.       Serve immediately with extra cheese and grated nutmeg on the side.


Ravioli al Patate e Rosmarino

My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Italy.  While visiting the Badia al Coltibuono vineyard in the heart of the Chianti area of Tuscany, we stopped at their restaurant, which, at the time, was quite unpretentious.  This ravioli may be the best I’ve ever had.  Unfortunately, I’ve never made it, so I don’t have any measurements yet.  However, I can tell you the ingredients and you can figure out the proportions yourself, and then let me know.


?? potatoes

?? onion

?? tsp. sage

?? tsp. rosemary



[not sure yet]



extra virgin olive oil

Pecorino Romano, grated

sage leaves


1.       I’m not yet sure if the potatoes and onion are cooked a little first.

2.       Combine and smooth out the filling ingredients.  Not sure yet how this is done.

3.       Make ravioli using the same method described previously, but a little smaller.  [Not sure whether to use water in the dough.]

4.       Boil ravioli until done.

5.       Top with olive oil, grated Pecorino Romano, and sage leaves.