food fanatic.bookaholic.mommy

Posts tagged ‘Italian’

Real Spaghetti & Meatballs

Growing up, one of my favorite meals was my mom’s homemade meatballs. A recipe that was handed down to her from her mother. I haven’t made meatballs in years and was looking forward to trying Ina Garten’s meatball recipe.

Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake selected Barefoot Contessa’s Real Spaghetti and Meatballs as the first Barefoot Bloggers recipe for February.  I made some modifications to the original recipe. We don’t eat pork and the market had no ground veal, so I used half ground beef and half ground chicken. I was also generous with the cheese. I have a cheese addiction. Lastly, I let the sauce simmer for a little longer than the recipe called for to let the flavors develop.

The resultant jumbo-sized meatballs were full of flavor. I wish there had been a little more sauce In my opinion, there was about a cup or 2 too little sauce for the amount of meatballs. The leftovers made a great lunch the next day.


Real Spaghetti & Meatballs (Barefoot Contessa Family Style, page 103)


For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan


  1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  2. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.
  3. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  4. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Pappa Al Pomidoro

Week 2 of me being left home alone by Mr. Mango– loneliness is setting in (poor me), but the house is close to sparkling clean (oh, the joy of not having to pick up after an extra person 😉 ) We both like to cook and usually split the cooking duties, although I usually end up doing the cleaning.

The day after Christmas, as I was sitting home alone, I decided to cook up one of the recipes on this month’s to-cook list: Barefoot Contessa’s Pappa Al Pomidoro. Pappa Al Pomidoro is a country Tuscan bread soup. I was mega-excited to try out this recipe since I’ve been on a bit of a soup kick the past few months as evidenced by the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Mexican Chicken Soup, Turkey and White Bean Chili, Ranchero Beef Stew, and Hungarian Beef & Potato Soup that I’ve made and posted about. I figured a soup would keep me warm & cozy in my husband’s absence. I won’t go so far as to say that I cuddled with the soup though. that would just be crazy.


The Pappa Al Pomidoro is comprised mostly of veggies, tomatoes, and bread. The bread dissolves as the soup cooks and the result is a broth that is thickened by the bread bits. (maybe not the most low-carb diet friendly soup!) I made the Pappa Al Pomidoro recipe without the pancetta in the topping and it was still super delicious and the perfect soup for a cold December evening. I loved the touch of the toasted bread and basil on top, it added a different texture and more intense basil flavor.

This delish recipe was selected by Natalie at Burned Bits, who has a wicked cute blog so be sure to stop by and check it out. Check out the recipe after the jump.


Fettucine with Yellow Peppers

After reading the fabulous work of fiction: La Cucina by Lily Prior…I was inspired to cook some Sicilian style pasta. I found a recipe from the cookbook Sicilian Home Cooking by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene that looked tasty to me AND conveniently enough, I already had most of the ingredients in my cucina.  The pasta was fairly easy to make with the most time consuming steps being roasting the yellow peppers and boiling the fettucine.

I enjoyed the pasta. It was different from most pasta dishes that I I usually make in that the “sauce” was mainly just olive oil with a few seasonings. In my opinion, for the amount of pasta and other ingredients in the pasta, the recipe called for a smidge too much olive oil.  Next time I might try adding shrimp or chicken to give it a little protein and make it more appeal ling to my husband who for whatever reason seems to be of the opinion that pasta without meat or seafood is like a sin against nature. 

Check out the Cook The Books Roundup for the dishes that others were inspired to whip up after reading La Cucina.


Fettucine with Yellow Peppers (from Sicilian Home Cooking)


  • 2 large yellow bell peppers
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/3 cup freshly chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound fettucine


Heat the broiler. Broil the peppers on a piece of aluminum foil on rack about 5 inches from the heat source, turning occasionally, until the skin has blackened all over.

Place the peppers in a brown paper bag. Close the bag securely and let the peppers rest for 5 minutes.

Remove the peppers. When cool enough to handle, remove the stem ends, seeds, and any white membrane. Cut the peppers into thin strips and put into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, capers, basil, fennel, pecorino, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Set aside.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir in the fettucine and cook until al dente, stirring often.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauce in the bowl and toss, adding a little hot pasta water if necessary. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot.

Reads: La Cucina

A Novel of Rapture La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture by Lily Prior

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lily Prior‘s La Cucina is a steamy and saucy little novel about Rosa, a Sicilian woman with a passion for food. Rosa grows up on a farm in a rural area of Siciliy. She is the only girl amongst a gaggle of brothers and she spends much of her time growing up in la cucina (the kitchen) learning how to cook. By the time she is a teenager, Rosa is a master chef who wows the farm workers and other locals with her food. 

In many ways this book reminded me of Like Water for Chocolate or other works of magical realism. Rosa’s passion for food and her sexual awakening made for some steamy reading.  The underlying theme of the book is a woman’s journey towards self-discovery. While Rosa is preparing their dinner, her lover tells her

Signorina, soon you will see that the arts of amore e cucina compliment one another perfectly.  Indeed they are part of the same thing: the celebration of life. We should not sacrifice one for the other.

The best part of the book for me were the details of Rosa preparing food.  Rosa makes dish after dish of Sicilian specialties, from pasta to breads. Lily Prior has written mouth-watering descriptions of food. Some parts had me wanting to run home and whip up some Italian food.

I began by preparing pasta: my deft little fingers forming the intricate shapes of rigatoni, ravioli, spiralli, spaghetti, cannelloni, and linguini. Then I would brew sauces of sardines, or anchovies, or zucchini or sheep’s cheeses, of saffron, pine nuts, currants, and fennel.  

I read Prior’s novel Nectar several years ago. Nectar was about an albino woman with a scent that men found irresistible. It had a similar undercurrent of sensuality and magical realism as La Cucina. I enjoyed La Cucina a bit more than I liked Nectar. I suggested another of Prior’s novels, Ardor, for a selection for one of my book clubs. Ardor is a “fairy tale for adults” about an Italian olive grower who buys magical seeds that are supposed to make women fall in love with him.  But, my book club proclaimed that the novel sounded too bizarre. I like bizarre! I will definitely be reading Ardor at some point in the future.

Later this week I will be cooking up some food inspired by Rosa’s endeavors in la cucina…perhaps some soup and some pasta. La Cucina was the first selection for the Cook the Books book group. This new book group reads a food related book and cooks food inspired by the book. I recommend La Cucina to any fans of food-related fiction, particularly fans of Like Water for Chocolate.

View all my reviews.


Chicken Piccata

Ina Garten is a genius!  Ina’s  Herb Roasted Onions were selected as the Barefoot Bloggers recipe earlier this month.  I decided to make a couple of the other dishes that were featured on the same Barefoot Contessa episode as the onions (“It’s Friday Night Again“).  I made the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and the Chicken Piccata. Ohmigawd…the chicken piccata totally stole the show. The chicken was so tender, juicy and flavorful. This recipe is definitely going into my regular dinner rotation.


Chicken Piccata (from Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa)


  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Eats: Alba Restaurant

Alba Restaurant
1486 Hancock St.
Quincy, MA 02169


On a recent Saturday night, we decided we wanted a nice meal out. My husband told me he was craving a steak and to take him someplace where he could get a good one.  So I popped on the Internet and did my thing and came up with two suggestions in Quincy Center that I let him pick from: Alba and The Jury Room.  He ended up picking Alba, because it was the first one we drove by and he found parking almost immediately right on Hancock Street.  Alba does offer free valet parking in case the parking gods are not with you when you go.

Alba was previously located pretty much directly across Hancock from their current location. Their new space has 2 floors with a bar and dining area on each floor. The first floor is the main dining area and bar and the decor is modern traditional with dark wood and large globe lamps. On the night we went, we were told the wait for a table on the first floor was 45 minutes to an hour but that if we didn’t mind eating upstairs we could head up there and find a spot at the bar. That is exactly what we did. The decor upstairs is not quite as snazzy as the first floor but it was still nice. We found a couple of stools at the end of the bar and ordered some drinks from the bartender to sip while we perused the menu.

Alba serves up a variety of Italian and Mediterranean options including appetizers, salads, pasta, entrees, and desserts. We decided to split an appetizer and a pasta dish and ended up ordering the bruschetta and the seafood fra diablo. After his craving for steak, my husband decided he wanted pasta instead. Figures.

The Assorted Bruschetta ($11.50) was six pieces of toasted bread topped with 3 different toppings. There were 2 servings each of bruschetta topped with hummus and roasted red peppers, marinated tomatoes and balsamic mushrooms. They were served with a ramekin of assorted olives, and a piece of fried mozzarella on a bed of spring greens. This was the perfect appetizer to split between 2 people since there were 2 pieces of each of the 3 types of bruschetta.  Both of us like the hummus with roasted peppers the best.

They split the Seafood Fra Diablo ($22.50) into 2 separate servings for us in the kitchen, so we didn’t have to fight over one big bowl of pasta.  The linguine was lightly coated in a mildly spicy tomato sauce and topped with mussels, shrimp, and chunks of lobster. The seafood was perfectly cooked (no super dried out lobster and shrimp here) . It was not the best Fra Diablo sauce I’ve every had, I would’ve like it to have a bit more of a punch to it. Overall, the pasta was a satisfying meal and the half serving was enough to fill me up.

I would definitely go back and try other dishes. The service was good and the downstairs dining room felt like a South End restaurant…bring a bit of a Boston vibe to Quincy Center.

I give Alba 3.5 out of 5 mangoes. 

Alba Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Eats: Caffe Tosca

Caffe Tosca     

15 North Street Hingham, MA



Last Saturday, Mister Mango and I met up mid-day to go to the Hingham Farmers Market.  We picked up some peache and cucumbers and then headed up the road a bit for lunch at Caffe Tosca.  It was a gorgeous day, so we sat out on the patio with most of the other patrons. Caffe Tosca only offers their lunch menu seasonally. Caffe Tosca is the sister restaurant of the more upscale Tosca, which is directly across the street.  Caffe Tosca serves country Italian food. Their lunch menu contains a selection of soups, salads, pastas, sandwiches and a few entrees.

SmokeHouse Chicken Panini

SmokeHouse Chicken Panini