Ciao'd with a glass of iced elderflower tea.

Juicy, fresh, and full of flavor, tuna-stuffed tomatoes make a lovely first course for a summer dinner or a light lunch anytime. This recipe, based loosely on one by Marcella Hazan, combines albacore tuna with briny capers, salty black Kalamata olives, and a spike of spicy mustard in a sun-ripened whole tomato. 

Serves 6

6 large, ripe, round tomatoes
3 cans (5 ounces) tuna, packed in olive oil
1/3 cup homemade or best-quality prepared mayonnaise (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons spicy mustard such as Dijon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped black olives such as Kalamata
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice off the tops of the tomatoes. Scoop out pulp and seeds, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. Salt lightly and invert the tomatoes on a platter so their liquid drains. 

Drain the tuna, allowing a tablespoon or two of the oil to remain with it. In a medium bowl, mash the tuna. Mix in the mayonnaise, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the capers, olives, and parsley and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Fill the tomatoes with the tuna mixture, mounding it at the top. Garnish with parsley leaves. Serve at room temperature or just slightly chilled. Based on a recipe from The Classic Italian Cookbook, Marcella Hazan, Ballantine Books, 1973.


Ciao'd with the AC on full blast.


Two classic summer flavors, zucchini and tomato, pair together in this light, vibrant, quick-cooking sauce. Marcella Hazan suggests, "The taste comes through even more explicitly if you can obtain vine-ripened, fresh, firm tomatoes." And she shares another secret: "An important component of the light, bright flavor is the way the garlic is handled. It is sliced very thin and aside from a brief, preliminary contact with hot oil, it is simmered in the juices of the tomato so that what emerges of its aroma is the sweetness rather than the pungency."  While Marcella calls for scooping away the tomato seeds, I left most of them intact as I like the flavor the seeds impart.

Suggested pasta: Spaghetti or spaghettini

Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta,
making 4 large or 6 small servings

4 to 6 medium zucchini, about 1 pound, trimmed
3 to 4 garlic cloves (enough to yield 2 tablespoons sliced garlic), peeled and sliced very, very thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh ripe, firm tomatoes (about 4 whole), peeled and seeds scooped away*, chopped rather coarse OR drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped rather coarse
Freshly ground black pepper
A dozen basil leaves, cut into thin shreds

Cut the zucchini into fine julienne strips.

Put the garlic and olive oil in a skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook, stirring two or three times, just until the garlic becomes colored a very pale blond.

Add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or slightly longer if the tomato is watery.

Add the zucchini, salt, black pepper, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning the ingredients over from time to time. The zucchini should be quite firm - al dente - but not raw. 

Cook and drain the pasta and toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, mixing into it the basil shreds. Serve promptly. Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan, Harper Collins, 1997.

*How to peel and seed a tomato: Core the tomato. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomato into the boiling water (you can add several tomatoes at a time). Remove the tomato when the skin begins to peel, 15 to 30 seconds, and put in a blow of ice water to cool. The skin will slip off easily. Cut the tomato in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds. 


Ciao'd as Rafael Nadal won his 10th French Open. Allé CHAMP10N!

Aglio e olio, garlic and oil, is an Italian mother sauce that forms the foundation for a host of other sauces, many of which include vegetables. Marcella Hazan's rendition highlights the vegetable of the moment, cauliflower. Paired with anchovies that imbue the sauce with depth of flavor, fruity green olive oil and parsley for herbaceous freshness, and a lilting dash of red pepper, this sauce proves that simple ingredients can sing. 

Serve 4 to 6

One 1 1/2-pound head cauliflower
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
6 flat anchovy fillets, chopped or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-pound package penne or other macaroni
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Strip the cauliflower of all its leaves except for a few of the very tender inner ones. Rinse it in cold water, and cut it in two.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, then put in the cauliflower. Cook until tender, but compact - about 25 to 30 minutes. Test it with a fork to know when it is done. Drain and set aside.  

 Put the oil, garlic, and chopped anchovies or anchovy paste into a medium-size sauté pan. Turn on the heat to medium, and sauté until the garlic becomes colored a golden brown. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon, mashing the anchovies with it. 

Put in the boiled cauliflower, and break it up quickly with a fork, crumbling it into pieces no bigger than a peanut. Turn it thoroughly in the oil, mashing part of it to a pulp.

Add the red pepper and a liberal amount of salt. Turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently. Then turn off the heat.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, add a liberal amount of salt, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, put in the pasta. When cooked al dente, tender but firm to the bite, drain it well and transfer it to a warm serving bowl. 

Ver briefly reheat the cauliflower, and pour all the contents of the pan over the pasta. Toss thoroughly. Add the chopped parsley. Toss again, and serve at once. Recipe from More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Knopf, 1978.

NOTE: This type of sauce is meant to be served without grated cheese, and that is how Marcella preferred it. But as Marcella said, "One may do as one pleases, and choose to have either pecorino or Parmesan cheese, depending upon whether one wants the sauce more or less sharp."


Ciao'd with a white sangria.


In Italy, this tart green sauce is always served with boiled meats and often with fish. It pairs wonderfully with grilled foods, too. If making the sauce for fish, use lemon juice. If you plan to serve it with meat, add red wine vinegar instead. 

For 4 servings

2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped capers
6 flat anchovy fillets, mashed in a mortar or a bowl, or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon strong mustard, Dijon or German
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar (for meat) or 1 tablespoon strained lemon juice (for fish)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

Put the parsley, capers, mashed anchovy fillets, garlic, and mustard in a bowl and stir, mixing thoroughly. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and stir again. Add the olive oil, beating it vigorously into the other ingredients. Taste for salt and for piquancy. (Add vinegar or lemon juice if you want it tarter, but add very small amounts at a time.) Recipe by Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook, Ballantine Books, 1973.

Note: This sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week. Stir it well again before serving. 


Ciao'd with the scent of hyacinths in the air. 

Let's toast to the moms. The moms who cooked dinner every night and shared it around the table. The moms who weren't comfortable in the kitchen but managed to put food on the table anyway. Let's toast Marcella Hazan, a mom herself who, let's face it, cooked us all under the table with dishes she prepared for her husband, Victor, and her son, Giuliano. Iconic dishes like her tomato sauce with onion and butter, roast chicken with lemons, and white bean soup with garlic and parsley. I know, the recipes sound so simple. They are. It's the finesse with the ingredients (always fresh and kept to a minimum) and the clear, straightforward instructions that jolt the recipes to remarkable. 

So it is with this chocolate dessert. It's called spuma which translates loosely to foam. A heavenly concoction of semi-sweet chocolate, eggs, and cream, with a spark of rum and coffee, spuma alights between a thick and rich French mousse and a soft and floaty British fool. The middle is the miracle. As Goldilocks taught us, that means spuma is just right. 

If you are inclined to whip up a dessert for your mom next Sunday, perhaps consider Marcella's Spuma di Cioccolato. It's complex yet familiar, sweet and just a bit bitter, and unabashedly authentic. Just like our moms. 



6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup strong espresso coffee
2 tablespoons dark rum
2/3 cup very cold heavy cream

In a 250 degree oven, melt the chocolate in a small saucepan. Alternately, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on medium-high for 1 minute. Remove and stir. Continue heating in 15-second increments until the chocolate completely melts and has a smooth consistency.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks and beat until pale yellow. Stir in the melted chocolate, coffee, and rum. 

In a medium bowl, whip the cream until it is stiff. Fold it into the chocolate-and-egg-yolk mixture.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then fold into the mixture. When all the ingredients have been gently but well combined by hand, spoon the mixture into goblets, custard cups, or any other suitable and attractive serving container. Refrigerate overnight. (The dessert can be prepared 3 or 4 days ahead of time, but after 24 hours it tends to wrinkle and lose some of its creaminess.) Recipe by Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook,  Ballantine Books, 1973. 

NOTE: Don't exceed the recommended amounts of rum and coffee, or you may find a liquid deposit at the bottom of the dessert.


Ciao'd after packing for a trip back East to visit la famiglia. Cue the mortadella. 



Today I picked our first "crop" of Swiss chard. The leaves were not only tender they were a lovely, almost translucent green, too. I prefer chard with white stalks and these did not disappoint. They were crunchy and juicy, a harmonious textural counterpoint to the gentle leaves. Marcella Hazan joins me in the Swiss chard love fest. She, like me, celebrates that chard leaves, simply cooked, make a lovely side dish. Marcella calls the dish a salad (not sure why but, okay). Here's her super-duper simple recipe that tastes super, too. Cuz yeah, Marcella.

Serves 4 to 6

2 bunches young Swiss chard or the leaves of 3 large bunches of mature Swiss chard
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 or more tablespoons fresh lemon juice

If you are using young chard, detach the stems. If you are using mature chard, pull the leaves from the stalks, discarding any wilted or discolored leaves. Wash well and drain. 

Put the chard in a pan with whatever water clings to the leaves. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 to 18 minutes from the time the liquid starts to bubble. 

Drain in a colander and gently press some of the water out the chard with the back of a fork. Place in a salad bowl. 

Serve cool (not refrigerated) or lukewarm, seasoning with salt, oil, and lemon just before ready to serve.  Recipe gently adapted from Marcella Hazan, The Classic Italian Cookbook, Ballantine Books, 1973