Ciao'd while watching the NFL Draft


Orrechiette, or "little ears," pasta is ideal for cradling the small pieces of pancetta along with the peas. Well-loved by the Pugliese (including me), the pasta delivers a delightful chew that plays nicely with the soft peas and crunchy pancetta. Asparagus delivers a nice herbal flavor that balances the sweet peas and salty pancetta. In short, this dish is a win-win. 

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Serves 4

1 pound orecchiette pasta
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 pound finely diced pancetta
3 to 4 asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup) 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the peas. 

Add the pasta along with the reserved cooking water and the cheese. Season with the pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the parsley and serve immediately, accompanied with more Parmesan cheese.

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Ciao'd with a black Labrador retriever at my feet. 

Some mothers cook with love, others out of a sense of duty, and still others cook with a shot of both. My mother harbored on the latter shoal. I'm not sure if she simply did not like cooking or because she was busy with a full-time job and four kids, she couldn't or wouldn't prioritize the task. I get it. What mother who also works (and p.s. my mom was getting her masters degree, too) can do it all without the help of a large staff?  We didn't have a large staff. 

Before my mother married my dad, my Italian aunts summoned her to their kitchens. Her mission: hover over their shoulders and learn to cook the dishes my father favored. To what end? They wouldn't bestow their blessings upon the marriage?  She was a good soldier, though. The dishes she learned became bastions of my childhood. Among the highlights, ziti pasta with broccoli and garlic (before the dish claimed a regular spot on restaurant menus). Fritelle, Pugliese for frisbees of fried dough, slicked with pungent goat cheese and tomato sauce and flurried with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Eggs with peppers and tomatoes served with crusty bread that ferried the mixture to our mouths. 

Today I had a text conversation with my three sisters wherein we cast our votes for our favorite foods from our childhoods. Suffice to say the eggs with peppers and tomatoes, a dish composed of fried green peppers, garlic, tomato sauce, and lightly scrambled eggs, was not a crowd favorite. Not so fast. It was a win for me.  I loved the flavor, the divergent textures, and even though it's not a pretty dish, the colors resonated with their brightness. Scrambled eggs with peppers and tomato is one dish I'm glad my mother taught me how to cook. It's a go-to when I'm tired or desire a comforting bite of nostalgia. 

My mother mastered the aunts' dishes and I learned how to cook them, too, but there are three foods she taught me not to cook. Let's start with pot roast. New Englanders (I am one of them) like to gussy up this dish by anointing it Yankee Pot Roast. My childhood pot roast was a calamity of sallow, stringy boiled beef that borrowed its flavor from soft vegetables, the carrots leading the pack with their cloying sweetness and baby food texture. Gag worthy. 'Nuf said.

Next up: pork chops with applesauce. I know, I know. Cue the Brady Bunch theme. Pork chops pose a challenge for many cooks because they can cook quickly into a scourge of dry chew. The applesauce was the bigger culprit, though. My mom spiked the Mott's with cinnamon and lemon. Kudos to her for (unconsciously) lifting the sweetness with the acid. Still, I was not, and I am not a fan of fruit with pork. 

And coming in third, the slime parading as tapioca. (My throat constricted as I wrote those words.) I've heard this horror of a food depicted as frogspawn. Wish I had coined that one because it is so spot on in so many ways. So, yeah, enjoy your frogspawn, oh I mean, Bubble Tea.  

It may be a coincidence that the foods my mom cooked with mastery were Italian but I don't think so. She learned how to cook them out of love for my dad. These were the dishes that reverberated with flavor, color, and, cheesy as it sounds, love. These are the dishes I cook to this day and every time I do, I think of my mom and dad. And I cook the dishes with love, too. 

My husband and son appreciate my cooking. My son has a particularly sharp palate that (he believes) gives him permission to comment on my cooking to the Nth degree. "Mom, maybe a bit more oregano and a tad less salt to highlight the herbal depth." "The pork chop is perfectly cooked in the center but then drops off to dryness too soon." "This needs more acid." "This needs more salt." On and on it goes in our personal episodes of Chopped. Food Network, you vex me, and at the same time, I am grateful that my son and I have this delicious bond. I am especially thankful that food connects us even during the dour teenage years.  p.s. he can cook, too. 

So here's to you, mom, for walking the kitchen line even when you were dreading it after a long day at work. Here's to you cooking eggs with peppers and tomatoes (and remembering to buy lots of bread) when you'd rather relax with a good book. And here's to the moms who get dinner on the table every night even when they order pizza or bring home Mexican.  I feel you. Let's take a collective mom breath. Food, regardless of its provenance, connects a family, especially when its enjoyed together. Believe me, our kids remember the table talk. 



This classic Pugliese dish serves deliciously as an appetizer, lunch, or breakfast. My mom made it for a light Sunday dinner after a robust Italian lunch. Use the very best extra virgin olive oil you can find as it adds a lovely dimension to this simple dish. And don't forget the crusty country bread! 

Serves 4

3 large green bell peppers
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
5 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim and slice the peppers lengthwise into 1-inch strips. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the peppers and saute until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce to the skillet, stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the eggs and gently stir to scramble them into the mixture. Add the parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, and add the grated Parmesan cheese. 

Serve with crusty bread. 


Happy International Women's Day! Let's celebrate with a sip of soup. #BeBoldForChange

This is a great soup to serve as the season transitions from winter to spring. It's satisfying yet not overly heavy, with a lushness created by pureeing the beans. No heavy cream required. For a vegetarian version, delete the pancetta, and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken stock.

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 ounces chopped pancetta or bacon (about ¼ cup)
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cans (each 15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
5 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 generous handfuls fresh spinach leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

In a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta is just crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery and sage, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cannellini beans, broth, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat. Discard the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, puree the soup in batches in a blender. Return the pan to the heat and stir in the spinach. Cook until the spinach leaves wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and black pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the parsley. Serve at once.


Ciao'd while trying not to eat my son's Valentine's Day chocolate.



I like to serve this sprightly pasta dish with its bright, sunny flavor when the day is rainy or snowy or grey. It’s a pick-me-up in the most delicious way. Tortellini can be had in many flavors. Choose your favorite.

Serves 4

1 pound (16 ounces) fresh or frozen tortellini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup minced fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for passing at the table

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions.

As the tortellini cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and basil and stir to mix. Drain the tortellini and add to the butter mixture along with the lemon juice. Toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the Parmesan.


This is a take on the classic Portuguese dish, Alentejana, a brilliant combination of pork and clams. It's a classic example of how simple, rustic ingredients can orchestrate perfection. Linguica is a Portuguese smoked, cured sausage flavored with paprika and garlic, If you can't find it, substitute chorizo. Serve the clams with crusty bread for mopping up the broth. Just, yum. 

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Ciao'd while watching Love Actually. I feel it in my toes.

When beef tenderloin took the place of ground beef in my mother’s stroganoff, it became company food. I think “company” works perfectly well for “family,” too. In this rendition, I use chanterelle mushrooms. They imbue the stroganoff with a sweet richness that plays off the tart sour cream. Spoiler alert: wild mushrooms can be pricey. Feel free to use cremini mushrooms instead. The flavor will not suffer. Beef Stroganoff with Chanterelle Mushrooms is comfort food with an adult attitude. That said, button mushrooms are a worthy substitute for the chanterelles.

Serves 6

2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 2-inch strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
¾ pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms (thickly slice larger mushrooms) 
¼ cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
¾ cup sour cream (don’t use low-fat), at room temperature
¾ pound (12 ounces) egg noodle
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Pat the meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet over high heat, heat the oil until very hot (the oil will shimmer). Add the beef strips in a single layer, and sear, turning once, until brown, about 1 minute per side. Do not crowd the beef; you may have to cook it in batches. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the skillet. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the meat and mushroom bits, until the wine reduces by half, a minute or so. Add the beef broth and simmer until the liquid begins to thicken, about 10 to 12 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water and stir into the mixture; cook until the sauce thickens further, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the sour cream and heat through but do not allow it to boil. Return the beef to the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is heated through, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Toss the cooked and drained egg noodles in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Serve the beef and sauce over the egg noodles, sprinkled with parsley.