Spaghetti and Meatballs (American style vs Italian style)

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     One of our most popular dishes that we served in the restaurant was “Spaghetti and Meatballs”.  A big dish of spaghetti with 2 large meatballs doused with our delicious tomato sauce was a big seller.  Twice a week the chefs would be busy mixing the ground meat in a huge mixer and then rolling 500 meatballs at a time. People loved this dish! Spaghetti and meatballs is a standard Italian dish served at Italian restaurants all over the US.  Notice I said the US.  It is not a typical dish served in Italy. If you go to Italy, you won’t find this dish on restaurant menus and if you do it’s probably in a tourist spot to make the American tourist happy. Italy does have a version of meatballs called polpettes.  But they a very different.  They are usually eaten as a meal itself or in soups.  They are made with different meat from turkey to fish. And they are as small as marbles or as large as a golf ball.  Nothing like the baseball or softball sized American meatballs.

       Polpettes are usually found more at the family table than on a restaurant menu. My grandmother made delicious meatballs that I looked forward to on Sunday dinner with the family. Pellegrino Artusi was a Florentine silk merchant who in his retirement travelled Italy and recorded recipes. He became famous when he published the first regional cookbook, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well for the home chef in 1891. When he talked about polpettes he said “Non crediate che io abbia la pretensione d’insegnarvi a far le polpette. Questo è un piatto che tutti lo sanno fare cominciando dal ciuco,” which translates, “Don’t think I’m pretentious enough to teach you how to make meatballs. This is a dish that everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” So needless to say, Italian version of meatballs was an incredibly easy dish to make.

       So, you may ask how did those large meatballs doused with tomato sauce over spaghetti evolve from polpettes.  It’s the common story shared by all immigrants traveling to America.  They have to make do with ingredients they can find and afford.

      Four million Italians (mostly from southern Italy) immigrated to America from 1880 to 1920. Because the majority of Italians that came were from Southern Italy their cuisine made a huge mark on the Italian/American culture.  When these poor immigrants came to the US they found that their income increased so that they were able to spend more money on food.  They ended up going from eating meat once a week to eating meat every day! And meat was consumed in much larger quantities.  So, the small moist polpettes made with 50% bread and 50% meat that they enjoyed in Italy changed to larger denser meatballs made with mostly beef.

          I have to tell you as popular as the restaurant meatball was, I preferred my Nonna’s meatballs.  There was a huge difference! Nonna’s meatballs were soft and succulent while the restaurant meatballs were large and dense.   I think it’s because Nonna made polpettes not the Italian/American meatball.  Here are a few secrets to get a truly soft succulent meatball.

  1. Use 50% meat and 50% bread.

  2. Use day old bread soaked in either water or milk.

  3. Overcooking meat for too long gets dry and tough but the bread keeps it moist.

  4. Do not over mix the meatball mixture. Overmixing make a denser meatball

      Now that I have shared the secret to making a perfect meatball the rest is easy.  And this is why Pellegrino Artusi said, “everybody can make, starting with the donkey.” Not only am I going to share my Nonna’s meatball recipe but I will also include a gluten free version, a vegan, and a vegetarian recipe. My Nonna’s recipe includes raisins and pignoli ( very popular additions in Neapolitan cooking). You can omit them if not something that your family may like. The gluten free recipe I developed for my daughter who is on a gluten free diet.  They are also very good but not as light and airy as Nonna’s.  The Gluten free meatballs are dense like the Italian/American version.  Also, some recipes may ask for bread crumbs instead of the soaked bread.  These meatballs will be denser. I also included a vegetarian meatball made with zucchini and a vegan meatball made with eggplant.  In Italy polpette are made with a variety of ingredients.  Enjoy tryin the different versions!


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 Nonna’s Neapolitan Meatballs 

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices bread (2 packed cups’ worth)

2 pounds ground beef or you can use a mix of pork, veal. and beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano

1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

15 turns white pepper

4 large eggs

1/2 cup dried bread crumbs

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

PREPARATION:

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces,

2. Combine the bread with all the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order they are listed. Add the dried bread crumbs last to adjust for wetness: the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.

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3. Using a small scoop, scoop and level dropping the meatball evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they’re cooked through. (At this point, you can cool the meatballs and hold them in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for the future.

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4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

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5. Place the meatballs into the pan of sauce and nudge the heat up ever so slightly. Simmer the meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn’t one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it’s time to eat.

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 Gluten-Free Meatballs 

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds of meatloaf mix (veal, pork, and beef chopped meat)

3 eggs

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup of grated Parmigiana Reggiano cheese

1 clove of garlic grated on the microplane or minced

½ cup of almond meal

Salt and pepper to taste

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

 

Procedure:

  1. In a bowl mix all the ingredients. Don’t over mix.
  2. Using a small scoop. Scoop and level and place on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs. Small scoop makes about 40 meatballs.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

 

Vegetarian: Ricotta & Zucchini Balls  

Ingredients:

100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil

4 zucchini

1/2 cup ricotta drained

2 eggs

bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

salt

black pepper

½ cup basil chopped

Preparation:

  1. Wash zucchini and then grate with a grater with large holes then drain or squeeze all the water from zucchini with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl put zucchini, ricotta, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, basil and beaten eggs then mix.
  3. In the end add breadcrumbs until the mixture is thick enough to form balls.
  4. Scoop the zucchini mixture and either fry in plenty of extra virgin olive oil hot or bake in a 375-degree oven for 16 minutes on an oiled baking sheet.

 

Vegan Eggplant Balls 

 Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, diced

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 shallot, minced

¼ + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-1 ½ tablespoon(s) extra virgin olive oil

¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired), divided

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ cup of chopped fresh parsley

 

Procedure:

1.Preheat oven to 400°F.

2.On a large cookie sheet, combine eggplant, garlic, shallot, a pinch of salt, pepper, and olive oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until edges are browned. Once eggplant is removed from the oven, lower the temperature to 350°F.

3.In a large food processor (10-cup) combine roasted eggplant mixture with ½ cup of breadcrumbs, and the rest of the spices. Pulse until ingredients are just combined.

4.Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the other ¼ cup of breadcrumbs. Continue to pulse until mixed. Avoid over-processing, when possible. When complete, the mixture should easily adhere into balls. (Note: Over-processing the eggplant mixture and breadcrumbs can make the mixture extra sticky and you may have difficulty forming balls.)

5.Form the eggplant and breadcrumb mixture into 1- or 2-inch balls, based on personal preference. Per eggplant, you should yield about 12-16 balls, depending on the size of the eggplant and balls.

6.Place balls on a large baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.

The Story of My Mamma the Movie Star and Spaghetti Putanesca Recipe

 

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I always thought of my mom as a movie star. Not only was Mamma beautiful but she dressed the part, too! Many would think it odd that I would regard her in this way since she came from a remote volcanic island off the coast of Naples, Italy. When she was born, this underdeveloped tiny island’s main source of income was fishing and farming. Mamma grew up poor, but most of her family’s suffering was attributed to my grandfather having left for almost 4 years to go to Argentina, an unsuccessful attempt at making Argentina a future home for them. During his time in Argentina, the country suffered a collapsed economy and a violent overturn of the government. My grandfather, broken and penniless returned to Ischia to focus on another plan to make a better life for his family.

While Nonno was gone, a successful publisher by the name of Angelo Rizzoli visited Ischia. Rizzoli, an orphan, raised in poverty, having apprenticed as a printer, came to great prosperity. He became one of Italy’s first producers of daily newspapers and ran a publishing house. Rizzoli was also quite active in the production of films. So when Rizzoli first visited Ischia, the town of Lacco Ameno, he fell in love with the beauty of this quaint little island and the struggles of its people. He was inspired to turn this impoverished, quiet, little island into a fashionable destination for the rich and famous. Not only did he want to attract the wealthy from the world of finance and politics, but he mostly wanted the cinematography industry to discover this island. So Rizzoli put his plan in place to turn Ischia into a popular and prosperous tourist attraction by building a hospital (Ospedale Rizzoli), hotels and thermal spas on the island. But it was his work in the movies with his production company “Cinriz” that inspired film-makers to follow in his footsteps and to become smitten with Ischia’s natural charms and beauty.

That’s the back story about how it came to be that in 1951 Burt Lancaster and the crew of The Crimson Pirate came to the island of Ischia in Italy to film a Caribbean swash buckling pirate movie! This movie forever changed the lives of many Ischiatani.

Most of the film shots had the Castello Aragonese as the backdrop. That’s the castle that is located in Ischia Ponte where my mom and her family lived. The Castello Aragonese dates back to 2500 years ago! My Grandmother would often talk about how il castello saved many lives when the volcano would erupt. Being that il castello is located on a large rock not too far from the coast of Ischia Ponte connected by a bridge made of rocks, the townspeople would run to seek refuge from the lava. My deeply religious Nonna would exclaim how the Madonna in il castello thrust her foot forward and the lava miraculously stopped flowing!

As you can imagine the producer needed lots of town people for some of the scenes. So my mom and some of the sisters jumped at the chance to be in a movie! When I was older my brother and I would have our eyes peeled watching this movie hoping to get a glimpse of my mom. Did you know that The Crimson Pirate was the inspiration for Disney’s block buster with Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean?

The movie crew was in Ischia for quite a few months filming. A bunch of them stayed at the Pensione Pineta, a hotel just a block away from my mom’s house. One day the hotel keeper asked my mom as she was out and about, if my grandmother would be willing to supply some laundry service for the guests. My mom, understanding that this could be a lucrative opportunity eagerly accepted for my grandmother. I would often tease my mom that not only did she make a movie side by side Burt Lancaster, but she also washed and ironed his underwear!

While filming the movie one of the props was a big pirate ship anchored in front of il castello. My mom being the oldest of seven grew up very gutsy. She carried a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders as the oldest. When my grandfather left for Argentina my mom was only 12 years old while my grandmother was pregnant with their only son and had to raise 6 young children. So as circumstances would have it, my mom would be my grandmother’s right hand. So at an early age she was able to express herself quite easily with adults. She also learned early on that she would not get any coddling because in a house of seven women and one baby boy lots of responsibilities landed on her shoulders. So if a boy ever mentioned to my mom she couldn’t – you better believe my mom set out to prove him wrong! So keep that in mind while I tell you that a boy once dared my mom to swim to that pirate ship anchored by the castle and dive off the gang plank. So she did! The ship was so tall that when she dove in staright  she could feel the water getting colder and colder the deeper she went.

(I’m going to digress for a moment . She was known as quite the swimmer. One year when visiting Ischia, my children all competitive swimmers were diving off a pier and the Italian men all looked on in amazement. Then right behind the kids my mom dove in. The men all turned to each other and exclaimed how the grandchildren must take after their Nonna! I later told my mom what they said and she beamed with pride!)

I believe that the aura of those movie stars that came to visit the island that one summer in 1951 rubbed off onto my mom. The usually quiet town woke up with all the activity from the movie crew and it changed my mom’s outlook on life. I bet the reason that blue eyes were the number one prerequisite on my mom’s list for husband material was because of Burt Lancaster’s blue eyes! My mom confided in me that when she met my father it was love at first sight when she noticed he had blue eyes! ( I would like to add another piece of trivia to this story : The other actor that starred alongside Burt Lancaster was Nick Cravat. Nick and Burt were in 9 films together. He played a mute in this film because of his thick Brooklyn accent. My dad’s extended family are all from Brooklyn with thick Brooklyn accents! They were the reason for my dad and his brothers coming to America. Small world right?)

That summer not only changed my mom but it also gave a new positive outlook for all of the townspeople too! The filming of The Crimson Pirate not only paved the way for Ischia becoming a chic tourist attraction, but for also becoming a set for a long list of future blockbuster hits!

I am proud to say that my mom shared the stage alongside Burt Lancaster. Ok well, maybe not as a lead, but definitely in the movie! I would like to think that not only was the famous Angelo Rizzoli the catalyst for the rise of Ischia’s tourist trade but forgive me if a stretch it to include my mom too!


 

Spaghetti ala Putanesca

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This dish was actually invented by an innkeeper in Ischia. The story is that late one night guests were hungry and there was no food left. The innkeeper quickly put together a pasta dish with whatever he had on hand which included some tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. He said he put together a “putanatta”. It’s a slang word for throwing together some left overs. But the actual meaning of the word is whore. The following night the customer came in requesting the same thing because it was so delicious. The dish was so delicious that other customers wanted it too! But the chef was reluctant to put it on the menu because he was afraid it was offensive. So he lightened it up a little by calling it Pasta Putanesca.

Ingredients: Serves 2

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12 vine ripened cherry tomatoes sliced in half

4 anchovy filets

2 garlic cloves- sliced thin

¼ cup of capers

¼ cup of sliced Kalamata olives (about 20 olives)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¼ cup of sherry

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley

Pinch of oregano

½ pound of cooked spaghetti

Note: The measurements of the ingredients don’t have to be exact. Remember it’s whatever you have on hand that makes it special!

Procedure:

  1. Pour extra virgin Olive oil in skillet and add sliced garlic, sliced olives and capers. Sauté on medium heat until garlic becomes golden brown.2016-08-31 17.19.02

2.  Turn off heat and add anchovies and sherry. Turn heat back on to medium and stir breaking up the anchovies until anchovies melt.2016-08-31 17.22.21

3. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes must be fully ripened into a bright red. Cook on medium heat until heated through.2016-08-31 17.25.18

      4. Cook pasta to your liking and add to skillet.2016-08-31 18.26.10
5. Also add a ladle of pasta water.
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6. Add chopped parsley and a pinch of oregano2016-08-31 18.27.50
                                                  Stir well and serve!

 

Soft Shell Crabs

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 Soft Shell Crabs Parisienne Styleincludes soft shel crab parissienne 023

   “Papa”

“To talk about soft shell crabs I am always reminded of my dad.  He loved the ocean.  My dad taught us everything about the ocean, seafood and how to enjoy them both! Before I go on to discuss soft shell crabs as promised I would like to share my memories of my dad.  I will refer him as Papa! 

   Papa had the biggest smile I had ever seen!  In fact everything about Papa was big except in stature.  He was only 5’7”.  Not only was he always impeccably dressed, he always had a tan.  He wore lots of rings and his pinkie ring was a huge diamond!  As far as I can remember he always owned a red convertible.   

   It wasn’t always like this for my Dad.  He was born in the little town of Monte di Procida.  It has an area of less than 1 ½ square miles. Located on the southern coast of Italy near Naples, this little panoramic town is almost isolated from the rest of the towns.  It sits on a perch overlooking the Gulf of Naples, the many towns below it and if you stand at my uncle’s house one can even see Sorrento and Gaeta as your eyes follow the coastline.  The islands of Procida and Ischia are so close you can almost reach out to touch them and on a clear day Capri too!  Its unique harbor has been utilized in ancient times since the Greeks.  Now the harbor is filled with a fleet of fishing boats!   My father grew up during WWII.  During this time the beautiful town was also a strategic point for the Germans.  It was used as a base for torpedo practice.  Papa would often tell us some scary stories about that time. It was because of WWII and it’s destruction that my dad was determined to come to America for a better life.  America changed my Dad’s life for the better and he became this bigger than life character that we looked up to!

   One year when I was 9 years old he took all of us on a transcontinental cruise. Not only did he take his family but he also brought along his red Pontiac convertible. So my dad,  along with my mom, my brother, my sister, I and the red Pontiac convertible crossed the Atlantic making several stops including,  Portugal, the rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Genoa and finally Naples.  I still can picture him and Nonna (his mom) driving with the top down in the little town of Monte di Procida.  Nonna with a kerchief on her head to protect her hair from the wind sat so proudly next to her son.  The red Pontiac convertible was as big as my dad’s ego!  But unfortunately the fancy American car was not made for the narrow ancient streets that St. Paul once crossed on his way to Rome to see Caesar. Without a care in the world my dad squeezed through those streets waving to all the towns’ people, greeting them all by name.  By the end of the trip the red Pontiac convertible sides were so dented in that we were barely able to open the doors. But no worries…my dad packed the red Pontiac convertible with us as we travelled back across the Atlantic to New York.  When we arrived home he went and bought himself another one!

    Traveling though Italy with my dad was such an experience.  People were drawn to him.  He had such a big personality.  So warm and gracious!  It was always such excitement when my dad went to visit his hometown. Everyone came over to greet him.  Our house was like a café.  We were always brewing espresso.  It got to be as soon as I saw a car coming I wouldn’t even wait for my Nonna to ask me to make coffee.  I immediately took out the moka pot and started the process.   I also set out the little crystal aperitif glasses for the vermouth.  Espresso, vermouth and limoncello were served!   Before they left my dad would always give the guests a big chunk of American milk chocolate as a souvenir from America. My dad loved American milk chocolate so much so that he wanted to share with his family and friends back in Italy.  As he does things so big he would order 40 pound slabs of milk chocolate from his favorite Italian bakery, Caffe Aurora, here in Poughkeepsie to bring back to Italy!  

   It was only one year that he brought over his red convertible I think he learned his lesson with the big American car because after that he would usually rent a FIAT 500! It was funny watching him load up his FIAT with watermelons because one thing about my father if he bought something for himself he always bought for his sisters too.  He made everyone smile and laugh when they saw him pull up with his little Fiat and pull out watermelon after watermelon!    The big smiles from everyone made my heart melt!  And he was so funny teasing the market people.  I love listening to his Montese sing song accent.   The dad that I loved was the dad I saw in Italy.  One summer he brought just my brother and me to visit Nonna in Italy.  As a treat he brought my brother and I to Capri.  It was so fun!  It was such a special trip!  But the best part was when we stopped for lunch at this rooftop restaurant overlooking the beautiful views of Capri.  The waiter gazing at my dad’s bigger than life personality along with his striking blue eyes (all the more impressive with his dark tan) asked if he was Raff Vallone. As I watched my dad’s already broad smile get bigger, Papa asked the waiter, “tell me more who this Raff Vallone is!” All impressed that he looked like a movie star who was known for his rugged good looks my father just beamed! And my brother and I just sat a little taller thinking how handsome our father really was that other people thought so too!”


Soft Shell Crabs

Soft Shell Crabs are available at your seafood market from April to September. It’s during this time that crabs molt their old exoskeletons.  These soft shell crabs are removed from the ocean as soon as they shed their shells to prevent hardening. The famous Maryland blue crabs that we are accustomed to hammering the outer shell and picking it apart to get to the delicious meat are now soft.  After removing the mouthparts, the gills and the abdomen, the whole crab is now edible, shell and all!  No work is involved in eating soft shell crabs! Soft shell crabs were a much anticipated menu item every spring at “the restaurant”!  We had people from all over come for our Soft Shell Crabs.   As you read on I will share all the secrets of cooking the soft shell crabs so you can make them just as good at home.  Typically Soft Shell Crabs are fried but at “the restaurant” sautéed was the most popular.  One of the ways we served them was in a Parisienne Sauce (please read recipe #11 blog post) for the home cook please understands that these crabs only survive a few days out of water.  So when picking out your soft shell crabs make sure they are fresh!  You can’t tell just by looking at them.

Secret #1   not only do you need to make sure they are plump don’t be embarrassed to give it the smell test too! They should smell clean and astringent!

Secret #2   refuse to have the fish monger clean the crabs for you or the crabs will lose all their liquid. Liquid is important so the crabs are very plump.  Wait until you are ready to cook the crabs to clean.  It’s easy to clean them!

Secret #3 I have given you step by step process for cleaning the crabs.  And showed you how to prepare then with an egg batter.  But you can also prepare them with just flour.  Putting a floured soft shell crab (no egg batter) in hot oil results in the plumpest crabs ever.

 

 Cleaning and preparing soft shell crabs for the Parisienne Sauce

 

  1. Flip the soft shell crab oversoft shell crab underneath

  1. Remove the stomach flap on the center back of the crabsoft shell crab stomach flap

  1. Underneath the flaps on the front of the crab are the lungs.soft shell crab flap for lungs

  1. Remove the lungssoft shel crab lung

  2. Remove the eyessoft shel crab eyes

  3. Remove the beard underneath the eyesspft shel crab beard

  1. Prepare batter for the egg battered soft shell crabs. Beat 3 eggs with a pinch of saltsoft shel crab prep

  2. Rinse soft shell crabs in water.

  3. Dredge in flour on both sides and underneath the flaps toosoft shell crab in flour

  4. Dip floured crabs into beaten eggs and coat well.soft shel crab in egge batter

  5. Heat a pan with oil until very hot.

  6. Place back of crab into the frying pansoft shel crab dredged

  1. Lower heat and fry 5-8 minutes on each side. There will be a lot of splatter so keep a splatter guard on pan.

  1. Drain the crabs on paper towels and now they are ready for the Parissiene sauce!

  2. Place soft shell crabs in the Parisienne sauceincludes soft shel crab parissienne 045

      16. Cook until sauce is thickened and serve!

Buon Appetito!

 

Chicken Scallopini alla Francese

cartoon chicken ala francese  “My dad was the first of his brothers to leave the apartment life over the restaurant to buy a house in the countryside.   The first day in our new home was both exciting and scary.  Living only with our immediate family without all of our Italian speaking aunts, uncles and cousins was an entirely new experience for us!  I even got my own room!! Mornings were so quiet!  No more dishes, pots and pans clinging and clanging!  As much as it was strange for us to go from an apartment dwelling with my huge Italian speaking family it was strange for our neighbors to have Italian immigrants that barely spoke English move into their community.  

     The first little girl I met was a pretty red haired girl the same age as I was! I was intrigued by her beautiful straight red hair!  She was just as awestruck by my long unruly curly hair and olive complexion.   My first day of school was a little intimidating. It was hard for me to fit in.  My parents were really stuck on making sure I knew my roots and were afraid that I would lose my Italian heritage if I became Americanized. It wasn’t only my Italian heritage; my dad had this old world opinion of what girls should be allowed to do. Because of my parents’ immigrant mentality and old world views they were reluctant to allow me to participate in childhood activities that my friends were accustomed too.  But my new friend made things so much easier.  She introduced me to her four best friends.   But instead of ignoring me my little group of friends accepted me for who I was.  On the other hand, it wasn’t as easy with my classmates.  I learned early on to hide a part of myself.  I was known as the shy quiet girl.

   That little red haired girl and her friends were the only ones that got to know the real me.  I was myself with them.  I couldn’t help but let the loud Italian me out! They understood the struggles that I had with Italian and American culture and they helped me assimilate.  The little red haired girl taught me how to feed oatmeal to her baby sheep.   My short,  cute friend shared her beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs! My Hungarian friend shared her family ghost stories!  My other friend introduced me to cheese danishes. And then there was my friend who lived on the other side of town;  she showed me that Dads came home at 5 o’clock with dinner waiting for them!  I learned that I too could fit in the American melting pot!

  The bond that I made 50 years ago with those friends was never broken! In fact we still are the best of friends and love hanging out with each other. We are all grown up now with children and grandchildren. As different as we all became, living in different states with a menagerie of careers, we are exactly what the old saying says,”The more things change, the more things stay the same!”  We all share that one thing that has kept us together all these years – the willingness to accept each other for who we are.

  Some of us  met up this summer and spent a few days together. We went to the little red haired girl’s lakeside home and I cooked for them!  Please read on as I share the recipe I made for them!!”

Paula, Jodie, and Mary!!

Paula, Jodie and Mary!!


 

Francese Sauce

finished frances dish

 

Ingredients:

1 cup of chicken stock (unsalted)

5 TBSP butter

Juice of 1 ½ lemons (1/4 cup)

3 dashes of Tabasco

3 oz of sherry or white wine ( milder)

½ tsp salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

2 sprigs of chopped Italian parsley

*Prepared Chicken Scallopini

 

Procedure:

Add all ingredients to prepared chicken scallopini and the whole wedges of lemon. ( you also prepare sauce seperately and add chicken later)

add all ingredients to francese

and simmer on medium heat until reduced and slightly thickened about 10 minutes. Remove chicken  and wedges of lemon and finish simmering until thickened.  Just about 2-3 minutes.

francese reducing

 

This sauce can be used for veal, chicken, shrimp, filet of sole, soft shell crabs….

Plate chicken and pour sauce over.  Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

francese 2

*We used chicken for this recipe:

  A package of 2 skinless boneless breasts. Depending on the size of the breast…slice it into 3 horizontal slices .  Take each slice and cut it in half.  You will have 6 pieces.  Sometimes the meat departments will sell the chicken already in large scallopini slices which you will still have to slice in half.    

     Take one of the slices and put it in a plastic gallon size freezer bag ( freezer bags are thicker than the regular storage bags) using the flat part of the meat cleaver pound 3-4 times on one side and then flip to pound the chicken on the other side.  Do this to all the other 5 slices.  Using plastic freezer bags makes it easier to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary.

    Beat up three eggs in a bowl and put ½  cup of flour (you may need more)  in another bowl.  Salt the slices of chicken on both sides, dredge in flour and then in the beaten egg.  These slices are then fried in a pan with vegetable oil until  golden in color.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked through because we finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.  After all the chicken has been prepared we set it aside and make the Francese Sauce.

Buon’ Appetito!!

and as my friends taught me to say:

“Dig In”!

 

 

Piccata Sauce ( Chicken ala Piccatta)

 

 

chicken piccata blog title

 

     “My brother and I would savor our tomato juice for what seemed like an eternity. We lingered as long as possible at that booth.  Long and narrow with booths on the right and tables on the left, “the restaurant” was dark except for the light streaming from the front window and the light streaming from the back through the kitchen doors. The booth that my brother and I sat it was located just outside the kitchen.  Mamma would sit keeping an eye on the front door while folding napkins. Sitting facing the kitchen my brother and I were practically on top of each other, just barely tumbling out of the booth,  peering into the kitchen.  It was our chance to find out firsthand what really went on in there.  Our mouths were wide open as we gazed through those doors. The only sound we heard was from the knives.  We didn’t hear any voices what-so-ever.  The knives sharp, shiny and gleaming were busy.  Looking at each other we spoke only with our eyes, “OOOOOO   AAAAHHHH!” We had to stay quiet or Mamma would think to bring us back upstairs with our cousins. We listened for the different sounds of chopping. Like the rhythmic sound of a beating drum, the parsley was prepared for the day. Zio’s knife made clicking sounds like a typewriter, chopping garlic. With speed and precision Papa’s knife  had an even faster beat while slicing the mushrooms.  While all this was going on there a slow methodical thumping sound as veal and chicken were pounded into scaloppini. All these sounds together resembled a symphony.  Just when we heard it all, the sound of cymbals clashed when the parsley hit the sizzling garlic! It was early morning but my brother and I wished we could hear Mamma sing out in her beautiful soprano voice “I’m ordering!” and Papa answer in his baritone voice “Pick up!”  Now that would complete the musical symphony  inside “the restaurant”!


Greetings  all!

       Thank  you for taking a walk down memory lane with me with tales of  “the restaurant”.  Staying along the path of garlic and oil based recipes, I thought I would share the recipe for Piccata Sauce this time. You will find that “the restaurant” sauces are different from same named sauces prepared in other establishments.  You may think you are ordering the same dish but don’t be surprised to find the flavor is not the same. In fact you will probably be disappointed.  “The restaurant” sauces pack a lot of flavor and use ingredients not often found in typical recipes.   In this recipe I am going to serve the Picatta Sauce over chicken but we also used this sauce over egg battered filet of sole, shrimp, and broiled salmon.  Before I continue I want to inform you all that these recipes are from my husband Jim that were handed down from my dad.  I am converting them into recipes for the home cook. Jim was the chef at “the restaurant” for a great part of the latter years.  As you continue to walk down memory lane with me you will learn how this all came to be.

   *The following recipe serves 2-3 people.  We used skinless breast of chicken.  Depending on the size of the breast…slice it into 3 horizontal slices .  Take each slice and cut it in half.  You will have 6 pieces.  Sometimes the meat departments will sell the chicken already in large scallopini slices which you will still have to slice in half.    

     Take one of the slices and put it in a plastic gallon size freezer bag ( freezer bags are thicker than the regular storage bags) using the flat part of the meat cleaver pound 3-4 times on one side and then flip to pound the chicken on the other side.  Do this to all the other 5 slices.  Using plastic freezer bags makes it easier to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary.

    Beat up three eggs in a bowl and put ½  cup of flour (you may need more)  in another bowl.  Salt the slices of chicken on both sides, dredge in flour and then in the beaten egg.  These slices are then fried in a pan with vegetable oil until  golden in color.  Don’t worry if they aren’t cooked through because we finish cooking the chicken in the sauce.  After all the chicken has been prepared we set it aside and make the Piccata Sauce.


 

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Picatta Sauce (Chicken Scallopini ala Piccata)

(serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients:

1 large clove of garlic thinly sliced

2Tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs of chopped Italian parsley

4 Tbs salted butter

Juice of 1 lemon (yields ¼ lemon juice)

Pinch of red pepper

¼ sherry wine

 2shakes of Tabasco sauce

1/8 tsp of salt

6 slices of prepared chicken scallopini (*see above paragraphs)

 

Procedure:

Saute garlic and oil until golden take off burner and throw in the chopped   parsley.                     

garlic and parsley

Add the rest of the ingredients and put back on burner.

chicken piccata v2

Add the prepared chicken scallopini.

chicken piccata sauce 2

 Cook for 13 minutes over medium heat.  The sauce will evaporate until about half the original amount. 

chicken piccata sauce 3

 


Bon’appetitto!


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Simple Sauce. High Quality Ingredients.

825 Main Local Hudson Valley Tomato SauceVivi con Gusto (pronounced vee-vee cone goo-stow) in Italian means live with both pleasure and taste. In English (pronounced “guss toe”) it means taste, great pleasure and enthusiasm.

Please be encouraged to have a passion for food, excitement of trying new things, and a zest for life’s simple pleasures. By simply combining a few fresh quality ingredients yields a sauce so full of extraordinary flavor that you, too, will want to live Una Vita Gustosa (a tasteful life).

Pick up a jar and introduce your friends and family to a simple life full of taste. And be sure to say, Vivi con Gusto! to your guests at your dinner table at home when you serve them 825 MAIN Tomato Sauce!

Restaurant History Sidebar

Teresa Coppola Morgan and her husband Jim MorganMy family’s journey started in 1961 when my father and his two brothers, along with my mother and her two sisters, having just arrived from the Naples region of Italy, opened the first Coppola’s Restaurant in the old abandoned Rialto Theatre on Main Street in Poughkeepsie, NY. Immediately becoming a success, drawing in a menagerie of people from town folk to celebrities, Coppola’s became the talk of the town.

The family eventually branched out to open other restaurants but Joe and Maria Coppola, my parents, stayed in Poughkeepsie. In 1979 Poughkeepsie Urban Renewal condemned the historic building at 273 Main Street forcing my parents to move to 825 Main Street. My parents enjoying their success in Arlington gave back to the community with annual Christmas parties for various children’s homes. Fifty years in business Coppola’s Restaurant received many awards for its fine Italian cuisine.

Jim and I are proud that we were able to hang on to that aura of family and thankfulness that my dad passed on to us when he died in 1994. Not only were we able to provide our customers with the same great food experiences that 6 Italian immigrants started 50 years ago but we also provided our customers with a canvas for memories! In turn our customers gave us a greater understanding and lasting memories of our heritage!

And now that we have closed our restaurant doors we are so grateful that our customers have opened their doors to their homes to introduce our 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce on the family dinner table.

“Thank you for bottling this FANTASTIC sauce!”

My son Ryan and I were lucky to be at Adam’s in Kingston for one of your demonstrations.  We have stopped buying any other sauce. Your sauce is absolutely the best on the market.  It is so delicious that we are packing up some jars for my son to take back to college with him this fall. Thanks for creating it!
Sincerely,
Colleen
Kingston, NY

“Sauce Snob”

The "Sauce Snob"

I had two wonderful days showcasing my sauce in the Adams Fairacre Farms in
both Newburgh and Kingston this weekend.  Talking to people while they experience 825 MAIN Marinara is so much fun!  I love hearing people’s stories! My favorite story was from an Italian woman who was born in the Campania region of Italy.  She exclaimed that although she makes her own sauce she likes to try bottled sauces to see if her sauce has any competition.  So as I gladly handed her a sample, she shared with me how she brings her family to her hometown in Italy every summer. Her passion for food was evident as her face lit up with excitement as she recalled all the regional foods she introduces her family to. She even went so far as to explain that her home space is taken up with a huge kitchen.  I watched her face carefully as she put the spoon to her lips, eagerly waiting for her nod of approval.  In the typical way that an Italian would nod with that little shrug meaning “it’s good but not as good as mine”, the mom
tried to delicately give me her critique. I didn’t take any offense explaining that 825 MAIN Marinara is supposed to be a marinara sauce that one uses when they don’t want to sacrifice taste for time. But the funniest thing about this cute woman was that it wasn’t enough to give me just her opinion, she quickly called her kids over to try the sauce.  She needed her kids to rate my sauce against her sauce.  So as her children (all young adults)  tried my sauce their faces lit up and said “Mom! This sauce is really good!”  The woman got a little sheepish but was a good sport about it. I couldn’t help but react with the biggest smile on my face but quickly toned it
down as she glanced over at me.  It turns out that the family was in Adams shopping for dinner.  They have a summer home in Woodstock and all six kids were visiting and mom needed to make dinner.   To make me feel better the mom picked up a jar.   But what was even funnier was that the kids came back behind her and picked up another jar.  As they left my sampling table they all cheered me on. Later the mom came back and apologized. She said her kids called her a “sauce snob”.  I told her I was not offended at all! We quickly bonded over our love for food and a quest to serve our family only the best. The only difference between her and me is that my mission is to share my delicious sauce with all of you. As I think back over this weekend’s stories I am empowered by my accomplishment!  I convinced a “sauce snob” to buy not one jar but 2 jars of 825 MAIN Marinara.  Now that’s what I call a great weekend!

Pastiera di Pasqua (Wheat Pie)

Pastiera di Pasqua ( Wheat Pie) is my family’s favorite of  Italian Easter treats, which is especially popular in the Naples area. Actually Naples is where Pastiera originated. It is safe to say, that as much as Strufoli are associated with Christmas, then undoubtedly the Pastiera {passt-ear-AR} belongs to Easter, and especially to Good Friday.
Essentially this is a type of custard cheesecake, consisting of ricotta cheese combined with a custard mix, and with cooked wheat, and flavored citrus zest running through it. When this mixture is eaten in combination with the shortcrust pastry it is absolutely delicious!
In addition if you can’t find candid orange zest, you could make your own by boiling orange peel in sugar water, for around 10 minutes, draining and then leaving the peel in sugar for a few days. After shaking off the excess sugar, you can store them in sealed jars.
Cooked wheat can be found in cans by Mariapina Cooked Wheat- Grano Cotto  but for those of you that live in the  Poughkeepsie, NY  area Caffe Aurora,  an Italian bakery always has cooked wheat available during the Easter season.  They cook it in Mille Fiore (rose water) which is the flavor that makes the Pastiera authentically delicious!

Here is a link that gives you some background history of the Pastiera                        http://almostitalian.com/pastiera-di-grano/

Pastiera di Pasqua
(Easter Pie, Easter Tart, Wheat Pie )

 

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of  cooked wheat
2 cups hot milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp grated lemon peel
1 tbs sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ¼ pound of ricotta
2 cups of sugar
6 egg yolks
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp grated lemon peel
½ candied citron and orange peel diced fine
4 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 recipe of pasta frolla for the crust* see below for recipe
2 tbs confectioners’ sugar
Procedure:

In a medium sauce pan place first six ingredients and simmer until milk has completely evaporated.  Remove from fire and cool.

Place ricotta in bowl and stir until very smooth.  Add sugar and egg yolks, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Add cinnamon, candied citron and candied orange peel, the rest of the lemon peel and last of all the cooked wheat.  Mix together well and blend in egg whites which have been beaten until stiff but not dry.

Divide Pasta Frolla into 2 parts, one larger than the other and roll the larger piece to a thickness of ½ inch.  Butter and flour a 10 inch cheese cake spring pan and line the bottom and sides with rolled out piece of pastry, trimming edges.  Pour in ricotta filling.  Roll out smaller piece of pasta frolla and
cut into 1 inch strips. Place strips criss-cross over cheese filling, trimming neatly around the edges.  Bake cake in moderate oven (375 degree F) 45 – 60 minutes. Let cool in pan.  When cool, push
up bottom of spring pan, transfer tart to serving dish and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

 

I adjusted this recipe to my family’s liking where I use half the sugar and no citron.  It comes out very sweet with the pasta frolla so I only use half the sugar and it comes out very good.  This recipe is the most like the way my grandmother used to make.  She had 7 children and would make a pastiera for each of her children’s family.  I would often go to her house before Easter to help her put the pies together.  She used pie plates and not the spring form pans. You can use  this  same recipe and adjust the baking time to  35-45 minutes for pie plates. You also need to double the pasta frolla.  This recipe
makes 2 pies.

 

* Pasta Frolla

Ingredients:
2 cups sifted pastry flour
1 cup of sugar
Small pinch of salt
½ cup butter at room temperature
2 eggs
½ tsp grated lemon rind

Procedure:

Sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Make a well of dry ingredients on pastry board.
Place butter, eggs and lemon rind in well and work dough with hands quickly.  Do not add water.  When smooth, shape into ball and chill 30 minutes.