Category Archives: Food

St. Joseph’s Day – March 19th, 2018 and the Pasta

If you cannot make it to one of the many St. Joseph’s Day Celebrations during the month of March, try this dish to serve at home.

Since St. Joseph’s Day always falls during the season of Lent, a period of penance and fasting, no meat is served.  Instead, fish and pasta are staples of the feast.  One traditional Sicilian dish is Pasta con le Sarde or Pasta with Sardines and another is Spaghetti with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs.  Since St. Joseph was a carpenter, the breadcrumbs, which are an ingredient in both dishes, are meant to symbolize sawdust.  Both of these dishes are also commonly served as part of the Eve of the Seven
dinner on Christmas Eve.

The pasta used in Pasta with Sardines is typically a long hollow pasta such as bucatini or perciatelli.  In Italy, wild fennel is used and also fresh sardines. Since it is usually difficult to find fresh sardines in the US, this recipe substitutes canned sardines.


Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines)

(Serves 4)


1 pound pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, perciatelli)
1 fennel bulb
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
4 to 5 anchovies, chopped
3 (3.75 ounce) cans sardines in olive oil, drained
1/3 cup dried currants
1 pinch saffron
Salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Heat a small skillet; toast the pine nuts until lightly golden, 3-4 minutes.  Transfer the nuts to a small plate; set aside.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet; add the breadcrumbs.  Stir the breadcrumbs over medium eat until golden, 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Remove the fronds from the fennel, chop them, and set aside.  Remove the core from the fennel bulb; coarsely chop the bulb.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onions, garlic, and chopped fennel bulb until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the anchovies and half of the sardines; stir to break up the sardines and anchovies.  Add the currants and toasted pine nuts.  Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes.
Scoop a ladle of the pasta water into the sardine mixture.  Stir in the saffron; season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.  Add the drained pasta to the sardine mixture in the skillet.  Stir pasta well to coat with the sauce.  Gently stir in the remaining sardines.  Allow to cook for another minute, just to heat the added sardines.  Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if the sauce is too dry.  Transfer the pasta to a serving dish.  Sprinkle some of the toasted breadcrumbs and chopped fennel fronds on top.  Serve, passing the remaining breadcrumbs to be added, if desired.

Spaghetti with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs

(Serves 4)


12 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs


Finely chop 6 anchovy fillets; cut the remaining 6 into 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.  Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic, red pepper, and finely chopped anchovies.  Cook, stirring until the anchovies dissolve.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the skillet with the anchovy sauce.  Toss until the strands are well coated.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.  Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs.  Add the remaining crumbs to the skillet and toss the pasta again.  Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls.
Top each serving with a sprinkling of the reserved bread crumbs.

Toasted Fresh Bread Crumbs
(Makes about 3/4 cup)

Toasted breadcrumbs can be made by sauteing them in a skillet or baking them in an oven.

In a skillet: 
Warm 2 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add 3/4  cup of fresh breadcrumbs and stir to coat with oil.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes.

In the oven:
Place 3/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Using your hands, gently combine the ingredients.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F. oven.  Bake about 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until golden brown and crisp.

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Easter Baking – Pupa Con L’Uova (Italian Easter Cookies) by Marianna Santangelo Vitale

Easter Baking – Pupa Con L’Uova (Italian Easter Cookies)

I love this time of year when winter ends and spring begins. There is such a sense of renewal and hope.  It has warmed up earlier than normal many plants are in full bloom and the spring flowers are opening every morning.

Easter is just around the corner.  Every year I have an Easter cookie tradition that is a pleasing reminder of days gone by, baking pupa con l’uovo. It can be a sweet yeast bread that is braided around colored eggs or it can be a cookie dough braided around the egg. My Sicilian mother made these every year.

It is a wonderful combination that smells so good and tastes great. My favorite part is icing the cookies and topping  them with various sprinkles, such as little chocolate eggs, marshmellow bunnies  or non-pareils.

Pupa Con L’Uova

4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 sticks of butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Moisten with about 1/3 cup of milk

Blend butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  slowly add the four and baking powder and milk to bring dough together. Let dough rest in the fridge for an hour.

1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp anise, almond or lemon extract…..optional

In mixer combine butter and sugar. add the eggs. Combine flour, baking powder and add one cup at a time until you have a soft dough that is easy to handle. Break off a baseball-size piece of dough and form into a disk;  then form a double twist with the ends and wrap around egg. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet  Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes until firm and pale golden, but not brown. Cool on rack. Combine icing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Use a silicon pastry brush to brush cookies with icing, then sprinkle with non-pareils. You can adjust the flavor of the dough with combinations like almond and orange, or lemon and vanilla if desired. Makes about 12 cookies

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Restaurant Week on The Hill Apr. 23rd – 29th

Restaurants on The Hill are coming together to form the 7th annual “Restaurant Week on The Hill.” Restaurants will offer a three-course pre-fixed menu starting at $25 and $35.

There are no coupons to carry or cards to purchase ahead of time. All you need to do is show up to one of the amazing participating restaurants, and you will be offered the special three course menu.

The purpose of “restaurant weeks” are to drive business to local restaurants while offering diners the chance to enjoy an old favorite, or experience something new for an affordable price.

We will be collecting donations for World Pediatric Project at each restaurant. You can donate by filling out a donation slip provided at the end fo your meal.

To learn more visit us at

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NATIONAL MEATBALL DAY – March 9, 2018 – That’s Italian

March 9th, 2018

Kathie Lee tries a $100 meatball for National Meatball Day

It’s National Meatball Day, and Kathie Lee Gifford marks the occasion by sampling a $100 meatball from Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in New York City that has Wagyu beef, foie gras and winter truffles – and is served under glass! “It’s delicious but it’s so rich!” KLG exclaims.



On March 9th we recognize one of the great American food holidays, National Meatball Day.

It is not clear how this day got started, but who can resist the idea of celebrating National Meatball Day?  There are many different ways to celebrate meatballs:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Meatball Sub
  • Meatball Pizza
  • Turkey Meatballs
  • Lamb Meatballs
  • Porcupine Meatballs (made with rice)
  • and the list goes on and on.

There is a restaurant in New York that has 54 different kinds of meatballs.  Not only do meatballs allow for variety, but they move from appetizer to side dish to the main dish quite easily.  Meatballs can be made the night before and put in the crockpot, or days before and kept in the freezer.


To celebrate, some restaurants give a free side order of meatballs, while others are donating money to homeless shelters. Cook yourself up your favorite meatballs or go out and order some from a restaurant near you! Use #NationalMeatballDay to share on social media.


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Schnucks Taste of Italy from February 21 – March 13, 2018

Schnucks Markets will kick off its annual “Taste of Italy” sweepstakes, for which the St. Louis-based regional retailer will fill its stores with hundreds of authentic Italian products that will enable shoppers to recreate their favorite Italian recipe at home.

The ‘Taste of Italy’ is Schnucks way of bringing customers delicious new Italian foods they may not think of every day.   Schnucks buyers have picked some wonderful products directly from Italy and are excited to bring them to their shoppers.


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Restaurant Week on The Hill April 23rd – 29th 2018

Restaurants on The Hill are coming together to form the 7th annual “Restaurant Week on The Hill.” Restaurants will offer a three-course pre-fixed menu starting at $25 & $35. There are no coupons to carry, or cards to purchase ahead of time. Diners will show up to participating restaurants and be offered the special three course menu. The purpose of “restaurant weeks” are to drive business to local restaurants while offering diners the chance to enjoy an old favorite, or experience something new for an affordable price.

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Chicagoland Italian American Professionals Presents: 1st Annual Bracciole Festival


1st Annual Bracciole Festival

The Chicagoland Italian American Professionals ( presents the 1st annual Bracciole event held in the Chandelier room at Casa Italia in Stone Park on March 24th from 2pm to 5pm. Home cooks are going to present their version of the famous Italian bracciole for attendees to sample and judge. Prizes awarded to the best bracciole and to the attendees. Home cooks interested in participating should call Salvatore, the executive director, at 312.617.5031. Admission is $15 for members/$30 for non-members/free for the home cooks presenting their Bracciole.

Admission includes sampling of the bracciole, wine, pasta and salad. For tickets to the event, visit our website or pay cash at the door.

Attached pictures are from our 2nd annual Cuccidati event that was held at Casa Italia this past December.  There was over 15 home bakers that presented their Cuccidati, a Tribune staff reporter and there were over 120 attendees.

Don’t miss out on this wonderful event.  Purchase your ticket today for the 1st annual Bracciole festival.

Click here for tickets

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20 Italian Regions, 20 Christmas Desserts

Italian Christmas desserts

It’s well known that every Italian region has its own culinary traditions, and it’s no exception when it comes to Christmas sweets. We picked one dolce di Natale for each region (some regions have more than one). What’s your favorite?

Aosta Valley: Mecoulin. Hailing from the Cogne valley, Mecoulin is similar to panettone and to pandolce from Liguria; it’s a ‘milk bread’ with raisins. His recipe dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was baked in common ovens, making it an occasion for the community to be together while waiting for Christmas.

Trentino-Alto Adige: Zelten. Originating in South Tyrol in the 18th century, Zelten is a spicy sweet bread with dried fruits that has variations depending on the valley where it’s made. The German name ‘zelten’ means ‘sometimes’, to indicate that it was only made a certain time of the year, in this case Christmas.

Piedmont: Tronchetto di Natale. Inspired by the chestnut or oak tree trunk that was blessed and then burned on Christmas Eve, it is a calorie-rich roll made with eggs, flour and mascarpone, topped with chestnut cream and chocolate flakes.

Friuli Venezia Giulia: Gubana. A leavened spiral-shaped sweet dough filled with dried fruits, raisins and amaretto, and dipped in grappa; it originated in the 1400s and the recipe has remained unchanged since.

Veneto: Pandoro. Along with panettone, Pandoro is the most popular Christmas sweet in Italy. It derives from the ‘pan de oro’ created in Verona in the 19th century to celebrate the first Christmas under the Scala dynasty, and was first patented with the name Pandoro in 1894 by Domenico Melegatti, founder of the company by the same name.

Lombardy: Panettone. The most famous Italian Christmas sweet, now exported beyond the boot, originated in Milan in the 9th century; the dough is made with flour, eggs, butter, raisins and candied fruit. Today, there are several versions of it, which may feature chocolate, be orange-flavored, or filled with pistachio cream.

Liguria: Pandolce. Hailing from Genoa, where it originated in the Middle Ages, it’s a sweet bread with raisins, candied fruit, including pumpkin, pine nuts, and pistachios.

Emilia-Romagna: Panspeziale or Certosino. It’s a typical sweet from Bologna, made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate, candied fruits; it originated in the Middle Ages, when it was made by the pharmacists of the time, known as speziali, and later called certosini.

Tuscany: Panforte. The original recipe dates back to the year 1000, when it was prepared by the ‘speziali’ for the noble class, the wealthy and the clergy, because it contained ingredients that were expensive at the time, such as orange, cedar, melon, almonds and spices. It hails, proudly, from Siena.

Marche: Bostrengo. Similar to Tuscan panforte, it contains dried and candied fruit, and cereals like farro, barley and rice. Originally, it was a ‘piatto povero’ (poor dish) of the Christmas period because it was made with leftovers.

Umbria: Panpepato. Sweet and sour at the same time, almost spicy, panpepato is bread stuffed with almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, cedar, raisins, cocoa, coffee, liqueur, grape must.

Abruzzo: Parrozzo. The ‘pane rozzo’ (rough bread) was prepared for the first time in 1920 by pastry chef Luigi D’Amico from Pescara, inspired by the corn loaves of the peasant tradition; the chef added eggs, almond flour and chocolate. The first person to taste it was apparently poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, who even wrote a poem about it, ‘La canzone del Parrozzo’ (The Parrozzo Song).

Molise: Caragnoli. Caragnoli are helix-shaped pancakes prepared with eggs, flour and oil and then dipped in honey; they originated in the 1500s.

Lazio: Pangiallo. From Imperial Rome to today, this dessert was prepared on the day of the winter solstice as a good omen for the return of long, mild, sunny days. It includes dried and candied fruits and raisins. The yellow color (giallo) is given by the mixture of flour, oil and saffron with which the loaf is brushed before baking it.

Campania: Struffoli. Originally from Naples, struffoli are small dough balls made with flour, sugar, eggs and lard, baked or fried, served with pieces of candied fruit, honey and pieces of sugar. Its origins go back to Magna Grecia, when there was a similar version called loukumades.

Puglia: Cartellate. Also found in neighboring Calabria and Basilicata, these phyllo doughs of flour, eggs and sugar, served with the addition of vincotto or honey, date back to the 6th century BC. With Christianity, they took on religious significance, as it was said that their shape represented the strips that wrapped Jesus child.

Basilicata: Calzoncelli. Fried ravioli filled with chickpeas cream, chocolate or boiled chestnuts, usually covered with homemade red wine or Aglianico wine. They originated around Potenza and spread throughout the region in the 16th century.

Calabria: Nepitelle. Typical of the provinces of Catanzaro and Crotone, these half-moon shaped sweets are filled with walnuts, dried figs, almonds, Strefa liqueur, cocoa and dark chocolate, or honey, depending on the area where they’re made. The name comes from the Latin nepitedum, which indicates eyelids because nepitelle resemble a closed eye.

Sicily: Buccellati. Originating in Palermo, buccellati are stuffed with dried figs, raisins, almonds, orange peel, pistachios, vanilla, and other ingredients that vary depending on the areas where they’re prepared. Also called cucciddati, they’re considered the evolution of the panificatus, a typical dessert prepared by the Romans.

Sardinia: Sebadas. While they can be found year-round, these fried sweets filled with the local pecorino and covered with the exquisite corbezzolo honey, are typical of Christmas for Sardinians. They originated in the 16th century.

For more Christmas stories, click here.

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Tortellini soup (la cucina di Jeanne Florini)

What you need
3 tablespoons butter, margarine, or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium carrot, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
8 cups vegetable stock (fatto in casa – homemade – see note!)
2 cups water
2 packages (9 oz each) dried cheese-filled tortellini
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 T dried
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

1. Melt butter in 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Cover and cook celery, carrot and onion in butter 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

2. Stir in homemade stock and water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in tortellini and dried basil (if using) at this time. Cover and simmer 10 minutes – or until tortellini are tender – stir in fresh basil (if using) at this time.

4. Top each serving with cheese.

NOTE: How To Make Vegetable Stock
1 to 2 onions
2 to 3 carrots
3 to 4 celery stalks
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme (if use dried – 1 T.)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
8 cups water
Optional Extras: leeks (especially the green parts), fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, mushroom stems (mushrooms will provide the umami flavor – that is typically found in a meat stock)
1. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil over a medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot. Cook, covered stirring occasionally until veg are soft (about 10 minutes).
2. 2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook gently for about an hour or until the stock tastes rich and full. Strain stock and discard vegetable solids.

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