Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions.

Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Meatloaf is NOT Sexy - Polpettone non e' Sexy

It does not photograph well.  Who said?  I for one, think meatloaf is VERY sexy.
Meatloaf with dandelions
All photos - Copyright - ©2011 - La Casa e Il Giardino – picasaweb

1/2 lb. pork *
1 lb. beef*
2 cups day old bread crumbled     
2 chopped tomatoes
1 red medium onion, chopped
1 yellow medium onion, chopped
2 red chilies
2 green peppers
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

* 2 lb. chopped turkey may be substituted

In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and cook the onions and peppers until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, chopped tomatoes, parsley, egg, and onion and pepper mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. 


Bake for 1 hour in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees until the meatloaf is cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Meatloaf cooked - nicely browned and very moist

Once out of the oven let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes.  This should make it easier to slice.  When slicing cut a generous slice.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rigatoni al Ragu' Rustico

Love, love Rigatoni!    I like their ability to suck in the sauce like no other pasta, especially the chunkiest meat sauces.  

Rigatoni al Ragu Rustico

All photos - Copyright - ©2012 - La Casa e Il Giardino

"Ragu' Rustico" (rustic sauce)because characterized by typical ingredients of rural Italian kitchens:  mushrooms and hot sausages.


1 lb. good quality Rigatoni
1 lb. mixed mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, criminis and porcini)
1/2 lb. hot Italian sausages                                 
2 cups tomato pulp in chunks
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
Sprig parsley, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

home-made hot sausages
Clean and slice mushrooms. 

In a medium pan saute' mushrooms in oil and garlic. 

Remove skin from the sausage and cut into chunks.   

Add the sausage to the mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Add the white wine and let evaporate. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes. 

In the meantime, cook the pasta.  Drain and pour into the ragu'.

Add the Parmigiano and chopped parsley.
mixed mushrooms

Saturday, December 31, 2016

How I kicked my $$$ coffee habit by switching coffee makers

Like a growing number of espresso lovers, few years ago I have figured out that I can have my coffee and drink it too.  I chose to become a at-home-do-it-yourself espresso, cappuccino, and latte maker.  And why not.  Today’s high tech, superbly designed, and easy-to-use European automatic espresso machine giving every home barrista the equipment they need to create espresso drinks.

I have been an espresso coffee lover for many years. To me, espresso is more tasteful than regular coffee. I love it in the morning with hot milk and plain in the evening after dinner. To prove it, here is my collection of espresso coffee makers which I have acquired over the years.

But two years ago, I was seduced by a company and accepted, one of the automatic, high tech, well-designed and easy to use espresso maker – you know the one that uses capsules.  At .55c per cup, I developed a $4.00/day habit.  I think they give away the coffee maker so they can sucker people like me and others into buying capsules for five times the price of  'regular' coffee (You know, like inkjet printers. I purchased a good printer for $150.00 but pay $45 for each ink refills).

This summer, I received several pounds of Lavazza coffee as a gift from Italy. 

Images: ©2010 - casa-giardino picasaweb

Now, I simply spoon out the coffee into the Moka, steam milk to 180 degrees (no higher or it might taste scorched) and enjoy a coffee shop latte for almost nothing.

My mother's Moka
Not only have I cut my coffee cost to one-fifth but by using my mother's coffee maker, I keep her memory alive.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

HAPPY HOLIDAYS - From Our Home to Yours

Wishing you all the peace the season brings!


Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.





Brodi di gallina (chicken soup)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Blood Oranges, Town Crier and my childhood - Arance Sanguine, Bannitore e la mia fanciullezza

Recently, I was reading a recipe for Margaritas and it called for blood oranges. Now, I have not seen nor eaten a blood orange since I was a child and, of course, this sparked a childhood flashback.

Blood Orange

But what does a town crier or bannitore have to do with blood oranges? I grew up in a small town in Abruzzo, post World War II. You see, in those days, there weren’t any circulars or ads in the local paper advertising sales.

A town crier or bannitore would be the person that, when a vendor would arrive in town, would go street by street communicating the notice to others. Generally, he was equipped with a trumpet or horn which served to draw people, who would then rush to their windows to hear what was being sold at the piazza. “Attenzione, attenzione; รจ arrivato il venditore con le sue belle arance sanguine dalla Sicilia.” Correte tutti in piazza…”. “Attention, Attention, a vendor has arrived with  blood oranges from Sicily.  Run to the piazza.”  The announcement would diffuse in record time because in those days neither radio nor other methods of communicating with others existed.

My mother and I upon hearing the sale announcement rushed to the piazza and purchased blood oranges by the kilos. These blood oranges, stained with red like Lady Macbeth, had an unforgettable sweet and tangy like taste with a hint of raspberry. I was told that the rich soil of Sicily and the Mediterranean temperature variation between day and night seems to be necessary to develop the distinctive red color.

We did not have Margaritas in those days nor did we have desserts on a daily basis.  Blood oranges and other fruits substituted for desserts which we only had on special occasions.  Today, being food conscious and a label reader of many cookies and cakes laden with corn syrup and artificial ingredients, I wish all children would eat oranges or other fruits as a snack or dessert.  In my opinion, they would be healthier.


The rich hue of blood oranges can be an aesthetic wonder when added to fresh fruit mixes and salads or used as a garnish.



Ingredients –

• 2 large navel oranges and 2 blood oranges
• 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced but save a few feathery fennel leaves
• Extra virgin olive oil to taste (about 8 – 10 tablespoons)
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Cut the oranges and fennel bulb
• Arrange orange and fennel slices on a large round plate
• Drizzle with olive oil
• Add salt and black pepper
• Sprinkle with the fine fennel leaves and serve.

Oh yes, the Margaritas


1 quart fresh blood orange juice or fresh orange juice (about 12 blood oranges or 8 large navel oranges)
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice (about 12 limes)
1 1/2 cups Cointreau or other triple sec
3 1/2 cups silver tequila
Kosher salt
1 blood orange or orange wedge, plus 12 thin blood orange or orange slices
1 dozen small sage sprigs or leaves

1.In a large pitcher, mix the blood orange juice with the lime juice, Cointreau and silver tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
2.Spread a small mound of salt on a small plate. Moisten the outer rim of 12 martini glasses with the orange wedge, then dip the rims into the salt to lightly coat.
3.Add ice to the pitcher and stir well, then strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish each margarita with a blood orange slice and a sage sprig and serve.

Make Ahead
The margarita recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preserving Garden Herbs - Conservare le Erbe del Giardino

What makes those summer dishes flavorful are the fresh garden herbs. To relish those flavors all year long, I preserve my garden herbs.

All photos - Copyright - ©2011 - La Casa e Il Giardino – picasaweb

We cultivate these culinary herbs: sage, rosemary and mint.  In mid summer, I pick them at their peak and hang to air dry in a warm dry place until they are crunchy to the touch.  I then place each dried herb in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

How can my leg of lamb or pheasant dish be flavorful without the rosemary?
How can the string beans, pasta maritata and zucchini fritters taste spring-like without mint?


Basilico sott'olio
Basil can be preserved two ways - dry and in oil. I prefer the oil method. 

Remove the basil leaves from the stalks, wash them, dry them with a cloth and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. To keep the basil in oil take a glass jar with a wide opening and fill it completely with dry basil leaves, spreading and overlapping them well. Add olive oil, pressing the leaves so that they remain under the thread of the oil. Close the jar and keep in the refrigerator.  Basil kept in oil retains much of its fragrance. Use basil to make savory sauces and on baked fish.

  Celery Leaves

Celery is not just for salads but great to spice up foods.  Celery leaves from our garden are worthwhile leaves with intense flavor that fall somewhere in the scent category between cilantro and parsley.
Like basil, wash the celery leaves, dry them with a towel and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. 

Place the dry celery in a zip-lock bag and freeze. 

Celery is excellent with zucchini and potatoes, baccala', chicken soup and a must in bird stuffing.

Buon Appetito!

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Bountiful Harvest from Our Vegetable Garden

We are celebrating this year’s bountiful vegetable crop thanks to a glorious early summer here in the North East.

Pears - Pere

All photos - Copyright - ©2016 - La Casa e Il Giardino

Yes, it required some workseeding, planting, mulching, fertilizing, watering and weeding.


Some plants required special attention - 

Pole beans

Tomatoes on the vine

....keeping an eye on the pests

such as staking up the tomato and bean vines  


........but look at the harvest


Jersey tomatoes

Italian flat beans

In my opinion, eating vegetables that you have grown yourself is an experience everyone should enjoy. They taste so much better than anything you can buy in a grocery store.