Recipes and Ramblings in Italy

Food Blog

Recipe of the Week (January 26, 2016)

Posted by William Abruzzo on January 25, 2016 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (3)


Polenta in Forno con Funghi e’ Fontina (Baked Polenta Casserole with Sautéed Mushrooms and Fontina Cheese) 


This week’s recipe take us to the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, where the Julian Alps rise above a coastal plain that stretches towards the vast Venetian Lagoon. This area lies northeast of Venice, where corn is an abundant crop on the coastal plains. Here, dried corn is milled into a meal called polenta. The polenta is then turned into a porridge and eaten as a starchy side dish. The polenta can also be cooked firm, spread flat to 1/2 inch thickness, and then sliced into squares.  The squares can then be grilled, deep fried or simply eaten. A bowl of polenta topped with melted cheese or a hearty beef ragu is the perfect meal on a cold winter day in Friuli. Here is a quick and easy recipe that you are sure to love. The polenta is prepared soft and topped with sautéed mixed mushrooms and plenty of creamy, delicious Fontina cheese. Enjoy it with a glass of white Pinot Grigio wine from the mountains of Friuli or a hearty Istrian red.  



Olive oil for sautéing

Green Onions 4 (chopped)

Garlic 2 cloves (chopped)

Mushrooms -Cremini, Shitake & Oyster 2 lbs (sliced)

White Wine ¾ cup

Thyme 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley 1 tbs (chopped, packed firm)

Butter 2 tbs (softened)

Instant Polenta 1 box

Fontina Cheese 2/3 lb (shredded)


       Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner and saute the green onions and garlic until soft. Next, add the mushrooms, white wine and herbs, season with salt and black pepper, turn the burner to medium and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are soft and most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed back into the mushrooms (about 15 -20 minutes). Then, stir in the butter and remove the frying pan from the burner. 


       Prepare a batch of soft polenta (enough for 4 to 6 individuals) following the instructions on the box. Spoon the polenta into individual, oven-proof casserole dishes, filling each dish about 2/3 full. Then, top with plenty of mushrooms and fontina cheese. If you prefer a crispy topping, sprinkle over some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Place the casserole dishes in a preheated 425 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fontina cheese has melted or the top is crisp and golden.

Recipe of the Week (July 2, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on June 30, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (2)


Spaghetti con Fior di Zucchine (Spaghetti with Sauteed Zucchini Blossoms)


This week's recipe brings us to the region of Lazio, where zucchini blossoms are a springtime treat.  Head to Rome's famous Campo di Fiore outdoor market in April, and you are sure to see fresh zucchini blossoms for sale.  The beautiful orange flowers are a simple and delicious treat. Saute them with pasta, toss them in a frittata or fry them until crisp and delicious.  if they are available in your supermarket, give them a try.  Better yet, grow them yourself!



Thin Spaghetti (1 lb)

Zucchini Blossoms, (4 cups chopped, packed firm)

Zucchini (1 small)

Garlic (4 cloves)

Parsley (3 tbsp chopped, packed firm)

Basil (2 tbsp chopped, packed firm)

Olive Oil for sautéing

Black Pepper to taste

Salt to taste


         Remove the stamens and pistils from the zucchini blossoms and coarsely chop them. Dice the zucchini, slice the garlic and finely chop the herbs. Set the pasta to boil in a large pot of lightly salted water. Coat the bottom of a 5 ½ quart frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner and sauté the zucchini and garlic until tender. Then, add the blossoms, herbs and a ladle of pasta cooking water. Season with black pepper and salt, and sauté until the blossoms are wilted and tender. When the pasta is al dente, drain it in a colander and add it to the frying pan. Toss everything together. If necessary, add a few drizzles of olive oil to moisten and re-season with salt and black pepper. Serve hot, topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese. 

Recipe of the Week (January 20, 2015)

Posted by William Abruzzo on January 16, 2015 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Paparedelle con Ragu d'Anatra (Pasta ribbons with Duck Ragu)


This week's recipe takes us to the region of VENETO, where ducks and other waterfowl are hunted along the shores of the Venetian Lagoon. In Veneto, duck is always prepared "alla cacciatore" or hunter's style, roasted with plenty of fresh herbs. Another favorite way of preparing duck is in a hearty ragu which is then tossed with a Venetian wholewheat pasta called "bigoli". It is great with a wide-cut, rustic papardelle too!





 Papardelle (1 lb)

 Duck (1 whole - 4 ¾ to 5 lbs)

 Speck (2 tbs diced)

 Duck/Veal Demiglace (8 ounces)

 Red Wine (about ½ cup)

 Chicken Broth (¾ cup -or more if needed)

 Butter (2 tbs)

 Olive Oil (for sautéing)

 Spanish Onion (1 medium)

 Garlic (4 cloves)

 Rosemary (4 sprigs)

 Thyme (1 bouquet -about 1 tbs, chopped, packed firm)

 Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (2 tbs -chopped, packed firm)

 Bay Leaves (3)

 Black Pepper (to taste)

 Salt (to taste)

 Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (for topping)



          First prepare the duck. Rub the outside of the duck with olive oil and season the outside and cavity with salt and black pepper. Place the sprigs of rosemary in the cavity and place the duck in a roasting pan that has been brushed with olive oil. Place the duck in a preheated 350 degree oven and roast for 30 minutes per pound. When the duck is done, set it to rest on a cutting board. Transfer the juices to a bowl and spoon off all of the fat.


          Dice the onion and speck. Chop the thyme and parsley. Coat the bottom of a deep, 5 ½ quart frying pan with olive oil, set it on a medium low burner, add the diced onions, season with salt, and sauté the onions until caramelized. Next, add the garlic and speck and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes. Then, add the demiglace, red wine, chicken broth and juice from the pan (about ½ cup). If there is not enough juice, substitute chicken broth. Add the herbs, season with black pepper, and simmer on a low burner for 10 minutes.


          Meanwhile, remove all of the duck meat from the carcass. Discard the skin, fat and any gristle. Shred the meat with a fork, add it to the frying pan, and stir it into the sauce. Next, stir in the butter and continue simmering on a low burner for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. If the sauce is too thin, add more chicken broth or red wine. Set your pasta to boil in plenty of lightly salted water. When the pasta is done, transfer it to the frying pan and toss it with the duck ragu. Serve hot, topped with plenty of grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Recipe of the Week (September 22, 2014)

Posted by William Abruzzo on September 22, 2014 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Pasta con Tenerumi (Pasta with Sautéed Cucuzza Tendrils & Cherry Tomatoes)



        This week's recipe takes us to the region of Sicily, where cucuzza squash grow on trellises and arbors in back yard gardens.  The long slender squash are native to Sicily and the regions south of Naples. The leaves and tendrils of this unusual squash are tender and delicious.  When sautéed with cherry tomatoes and tossed with pasta, you have a meal that would make any Sicilian proud.  Add some diced prosciutto or crushed red chili flakes for extra bold flavor. And, be sure to top it off with fresh grated ricotta salata cheese! 



Pasta 1 lb

Prosciutto 4 ounces (diced)

Olive Oil to saute

Cucuzza Tendrils & Leaves 1 large bowl (about 2 lbs)

Cherry Tomatoes 1 dry quart

Garlic 4 cloves

Black Pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Crushed Red Pepper to taste (optional)

Ricotta Salata for topping


        Use the top 2 inches of the tendrils and the small leaves that are no more than 2 inches in diameter. Chop the greens and boil them in lightly salted water for 10 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, set the pasta to boil in lightly salted water. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and dice the prosciutto and garlic. Coat the bottom of a six quart frying pan generously with olive oil, set it on a low burner, add the prosciutto and garlic, and saute until the garlic is soft. Then, add the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and spices, and continue sauteeing until the skins on the cherry tomatoes pucker and they release some of their juices. When the greens are tender, strain them and add them to the frying pan. When the pasta is done, add it to the frying pan and toss well. Serve hot, topped with plenty of ricotta salata cheese.


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Private Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes

I offer private cooking classes for up to six people. Cooking classes are held in my home on Saturday evenings. I specialize in all aspects of Italian regional cuisine, including soups, vegetables, pasta, risotto, meat, seafood and desserts. I will design a cooking class around whatever interests you –whether it is a specific recipe you wish to learn or a skill such as pasta-making. For more details, please take a minute to become a member of my website and contact me via internal email at . 

Bill's Cooking Tip of the Month

Roll Out Pie Dough with Ease Using Plastic Wrap

This is an old trick I learned years ago from my mother. The next time you bake a pie, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin and will make it easier to transport the dough from your work surface to the pie dish or baking sheet.

Cover your entire work surface with plastic wrap and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the wrap, pat it down to 1 inch thickness, sprinkle it lightly with flour, and then cover it with a second layer of wrap. Roll out the dough to just less than ¼ inch thickness and remove the top layer of wrap. Lift the dough using the bottom layer of wrap, turn it on to a lightly greased pie dish or baking sheet, and then remove the wrap. Its quick and easy! 

Tips on Italian Ingredients

 Frying Tomato Paste Enhances the Flavor and Adds Depth to Your Dish

Many recipes direct you to stir tomato paste into a sauce, soup or stew. However, frying the tomato paste first fully develops its flavor and eliminates any raw or metallic taste. It is a quick and easy way to enhance the flavor of your dish. Tomato paste should always be added at the beginning of a recipe, rather than at the end. This allows its flavor to marry with the dish. Add it immediately after sautéing your aromatics in olive oil or rendered fat. When the aromatics are soft, push them to one side of your pot or frying pan. Place a dollop of tomato paste on the other side, tilt the pot or frying pan to pool the oil around the tomato paste, and let it gently sizzle for about 2 minutes.  After the tomato paste has fried, incorporate it into the aromatics and then add the liquid and other ingredients to complete your sauce, soup or stew. 

Just Picked From My Italian Vegetable Garden!

 Zucchini Blossoms 

My Italian Heritage

 My Great Grandparents, Vita and Onofrio Abruzzo, from the town of Santa Margherita di Belice, Sicily pictured here with my grandfather Vito "Bill" in the center.

Great reads for the Italophile!

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