Category Archives: Recipes

grazie dal cuore, marcella hazan

Marcella Hazan, food writer and considered one of the foremost authorities of Italian cuisine, died September 29 at the age of 89.


Ms. Hazan married and moved from Italy to New York with her American husband in 1955. Ironically, she never cooked before she got married. But later, after beginning a cooking school and giving cooking lessons from her home, her husband encouraged her to publish her first cookbook, “The Classic Italian Cookbook”,  in  1973. She believed simple, good ingredients lead to delicious dishes and is credited with bringing traditional Italian cuisine to the American public.

Thanks to Ms. Hazan’s wisdom and detailed, quite simple and beautiful recipes, I often fry with butter and vegetable oil  (a must when you make her Asparagus Risotto) instead of extra virgin olive oil when required for better, richer and milder taste.  Her “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” (published 1992) cookbook sits on my counter and is the source of my favorite dishes including braised pork chops (Modena style) and risotto, my guide to using herbs, and provides extra meaning after the news of her death.

This NY Times article, “Remembering Marcella”, provides more information on Ms. Hazan’s life and cooking.

In honor of Ms. Hazan, below is a reprint of her simple and delicious tomato recipe.


 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano or Italian imported whole peeled tomatoes)                   

5 tablespoons butter               

 1 onion, peeled and cut in half                   



Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

autumn plate

It feels like fall outside. It’s feels like fall online too, inside the community of travel, culture, literature, home and garden bloggers. So I bought a new cashmere sweater today in pale pink, thanks to these tips for fall travel style from This is my Happiness.  And trusty Ciao Domenica has offered this inspiration for delicious recipes including a pumpkin-spice cake with pumpkin cream-cheese frosting.

The start of a season presents an empty plate, ready to be filled with fall’s favorite things, like slipping on a new warm sweater, brewing up tea, settling down to a new book or catching a movie.


For me, that means reading Caleb Crain’s debut novel  “Necessary Errors.” Set in post- Iron Curtain Prague in the early 1990s, after the ’89 Velvet Revolution, the book is described as coming of age for idealistic young expat Americans abroad (for longtime BTH readers, no surprise this book is top of my list!).  I’m looking forward to learning more about Eastern European history and Czech culture. The Slate review writes “it recalls the dreamy pacing of Henry James or Elizabeth Bowan.”


I’m also looking forward to returning to our wonderful local art deco theater this season. I’m still recovering from Woody Allen’s tragic Blue Jasmine and am ready to enjoy a lighter comedy this fall. Enough Said  stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Eva) and James Gandolfini  (Albert) who meet and a romance quickly blossoms, but Eva befriends – and gets an earful from – a woman about her ex. The twist is that she finds out that “the ex “is Albert.

What’s on your autumn plate?




tagliatelle tonight

Say what you will, but I’m a fan of Giada De Laurentiis, the Italian-American chef, cookbook author and TV personality of Everyday Italian on Food Network Television.


Born in Rome and living in L.A., she’s bursting with celebrity blood  – her mother was an Italian actress and her father a producer/actor. Remarkably, her maternal grandfather was film producer Dino De Laurentiis, and if you watch a Fellini classic like La Strada, you will see his name in the credits.

Her TV cooking show features a variety of foods she grew up with and I have found the most inspiration in her simple and flavorful pasta recipes.

On deck for this week:


Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage and Ricotta Cheese

1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle pasta (or other wide, long pasta )

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound hot Italian sausage

1 pound frozen peas, thawed

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped (about 3/4 cup)

1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 teaspoon salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-sized bits. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese along with the cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding the pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, if needed, to make the pasta moist. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, Pecorino Romano Cheese and salt. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

recipe and photo credit: TV Food Network, Everyday Italian

pirlo please

One of the first things I do when I’m in the Brescia area of Lombardy, Italy is order my favorite aperitivo Bresciano, a Pirlo. First, because it’s my all time favorite before-dinner cocktail. Second, because you can’t order a Pirlo by that name anywhere but in this province of Italy, as we learned when we lived there.

enjoying a pirlo – or spritz – in Italy this summer

First a bit of Pirlo trivia:

A Pirlo is not called a Pirlo anywhere outside of the Brescia province. It’s comparable to a Spritz in Venice.

It is not named after Andrea Pirlo, Italian soccer legend who played for Brescia. The name comes from the whirling, circular movement or “fall “of the campari or aperol when added to the base of white wine.

A Pirlo can be made with campari or aperol (I always choose aperol).

Brescians are passionate about their Pirlo. There is even a web site dedicated to the drink!

A Pirlo is a perfect, refreshing summer drink, in Northern Italy or out. Serve with some olives or patatine out on your deck or terrazza and enjoy. Cin Cin!

Pirlo Recipe

1/3 Prosecco or Brut  (a fizzy white wine)
1/3 mineral water (very fizzy)
1/3 Bitter Campari or Aperol
lots of ice and a slice of orange

photo credit: (cosi’ si beve a Brescia)


One of the good habits I brought back with me from Italy and have kept up – unlike ironing – is how I cook. More specifically, this refers to food items that I now make myself instead of purchase in a jar. They include salad dressing and a basic tomato sauce. Why? They taste better. You know exactly what is inside them. And it feels good. When it comes to the basics, it’s quite easy to pass up the jar and do it yourself.

Vinaigrette salad dressing: Pour a cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl (local if possible tastes the best, in my opinion. We get our olive oil at the local farmers market and it comes from the olive orchards in Corning, Northern California). Pour half cup of red wine vinegar (any will do). Add dried oregano, a small teaspoon of dijon mustard, a few teaspoons of honey, a garlic clove (or less, depending on your taste) chopped finely, and salt and pepper. Whisk together in a small bowl or shake in a jar. Play with the amounts and see what works for you. Tonight we tossed our dressing with our own lettuce and arugula from the backyard garden, and it tasted heavenly!

Basic summer tomato sauce: Place peeled, diced, very ripe Roma-style tomatoes (in can – we like Italbrand – or from the garden or market) in a pan. Salt and cook tomatoes until the water is mostly evaporated. (Americans like sauce runny, Italians do not. I side with the Italians on this one.) At the end of cooking, add a bit of extra virgin olive oil and hand-torn basil.  If the tomatoes are good quality and well matured, the sauce will be delicious. It’s all about the ingredients. Use as a basic sauce to add to, or as is, mixed with spaghetti or pasta of your choice.

Buon appetito!

bunny powder

courtesy of

He’s back. He arrives earlier each year, like the man in the red suit. In many forms. Chocolate, candy, gummy, bubbles, blow-up. It’s not Easter without our beloved Bunny.

Thanks to the cute factor, those of us living in this country are somewhat squeamish about thinking of bunnies as menu items instead of soft, cuddly pets. We instead consume it in candy form during the month of April. Living abroad where it’s commonly found on the menu, I found it quite good and as a new mom, I introduced it to my baby daughter at around 6 months old. 

Let me explain. After I told the pediatrician I was using the expressed breast milk & iron-enriched rice cereal method, he shook his head (muttering under his breath something about Americans overcomplicating things and iron in cereal being bad for the baby’s stomach), and explained that vegetable brodo -or broth- substituted milk-based meals for babies in Italy. After asking him the next obvious question that came to mind (“So where do you buy it?”), he scribbled down a recipe for me. The recipe included vegetables and “1/2 vasetto di liofilizzato di carne (coniglio)”.  I went home and grabbed the dictionary. It roughly translated to a beaker of freeze-dried rabbit. I double checked. Freeze-dried rabbit. I triple checked. Freeze-dried rabbit. Yep.

This was the last straw in a long list of things I resisted during pregnancy and childbirth abroad because they were completely contrary to my hyper-anxiety provoking responsible guide to parenting book, “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” , I had ordered -special delivery!- to help me through childbirth and first year with baby abroad.  (You know the one.) I surrendered and tossed out the book. Now my child would not be served neatly separated jars of fruit and vegetables one at a time, with several days in between food introductions as instructed in the book. She would most definitely need to be rushed to the ER for a food allergy attack.  And there was no sticker in my baby’s milestone calendar for this rabbit-based brodo.

Brodo. Broth from vegetables, meat, and cereal mixed together. Topped off with a dribble of olive oil and grated parmigiano reggiano. She loved it. And not one food allergy.  The recipe (below) – shared over time with many friends and new moms  – was used as a base for her meals for years to come.  I have included a version with fresh meat as it seems a healthier alternative to powdered, freeze-dried meat – if you can even find it here. It’s simple and takes under 5 minutes to prepare before sticking it in a pot on the stove to simmer. And I loved the idea of offering healthy foods together as a meal from the get-go, not to mention the way it made the house smell. From that day on I just went with the flow. When in Rome….they say. Buon Appetito and Happy Easter.

Basic Brodo 


 1 carrot, 1 small potato, 1 zucchini  (vegetables can vary here) – washed and diced.

optional: small piece of meat (chicken, beef, rabbit, turkey, lamb) – I used stew meat

water (around a liter, enough for a small to medium-sized pot)


Cook vegetables (and meat if you choose) in water in a small to medium-sized pot. Cook for (approximately) 30-45 minutes – until veggies are soft.

Use a strainer to separate broth from chunks of vegetables and meat.

Add the broth to cereal (rice, barley, oat,etc.) to the right consistency for your child. Sprinkle with a dribble of extra virgin olive oil and grated parmigiano reggiano on top. Mix and serve. As your child gets older, add the actual chunks of veggies and meat.  

(don’t refrigerate leftover broth for more than 24 hours)