Category Archives: ITALIAN DESSERTS


IMPANATE…your Italian culinary word of the day. Basically it means coated in breadcrumbs, like when you fry something like a Milanese, or when you top with a layer of breadcrumbs. This is the topped style. It’s a variant of ItalianAmerican Shrimp Scampi but Impanati i make a little different, yet it’s basically the same ingredients all baked together. Olive oil, then seasoned shrimp, then chopped garlic, then white wine, then a layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and minced fresh basil, then dot with butter and into a hot oven for not too long. It comes out of the oven hot and bubbly, then a squeeze of fresh lemon and serve. There’s the whole dealio. I’d eat anything treated with breadcrumbs in one or another form. Maybe it’s my Southern Italian DNA, there’s really no breadcrumbed dish that I don’t love. This is one of them for sure. I can tell you how to cook this since it’s my recipe I’ve created but I can’t dictate the shrimp you should be buying. I CAN however tell you that for this and almost all Shrimp dishes I cook I seek out never Frozen, fresh smelling Wild caught Shrimp from the USA. I realize that’s not an option for everyone. My second choice is wild caught or sustainably farmed frozen shrimp from safe waters. Places like Whole Foods usually carry those, or reputable seafood markets. I get my fresh shrimp at local seafood markets or my local Shop Rite. The hardest part of this dish is simply cleaning and deviening the shrimp. It moves very quickly after that. I love placing 8 shrimp in those baking dishes I have. Looks so much like a good seafood restaurant style. Family background note on that picture. As always you should bake items on a larger tray just to catch any bubbling up. Notice in the picture the simple pizza pan they are on. I baked them on the pan. No mess and keeps the bottom of your oven clean. The pizza pan itself could be 75 years old or so. It was given to my mom from her Dad, Grandpa Innocenzo Scaramuzzi, and was given to him by his brother in law, my Great Uncle Pasquale Pucillo. I never met Great Uncle Patsy, he passed away on the day I was born. This pizza pan was from his restaurant bar in Staten Island, NYC on Manor Road. I believe the name of the place was the Blue Manor. Family stories tell me he was a good cook along with his wife, Great Aunt Maria Giuseppe Scaramuzzi Pucillo. Whenever my mom made a homemade pizza she used this pan. Bringing the family history into my kitchen makes my dishes taste even better.














PREHEAT your oven to 425 degrees F. Pat your shrimp dry then season with salt and black pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs, pecorino, salt, pepper to taste, paprika and basil together. Blend Well. In a square or round gratin dish, or smaller ones, add the olive oil to the bottom of the pan(s). Place the shrimp in tail side up. Scatter the garlic over the tops of the shrimp. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the wine. Then lightly pat the breadcrumbs on top of everything. Dot the top of the dish with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a little paprika, and evenly place the butter around. Into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I like to let it go for 6 minutes, then I rotate the pan and give it another 5-6 minutes or so, just till it’s bubbly and browned on to. Remove from the oven. While it’s bubbling squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. The aroma will get you wild. It’s Amazing!! Let it sit for 2 minutes, then serve immediately with…..steamed rice, that’s my favorite accompaniment. A sauteed or steamed green vegetable. Bread to sop up the buttery shrimpy garlicky juices. Enjoy.


Summer is here and it’s time for icy refreshing drinks to cool you down when the temps and humidity get high. One of my favorite thirst quenchers was taught to me by my Sicilian born paternal Grandmother, Giuseppa (Josephine) Lucia Vizzi Battaglia. Born in Sciacca, Agrigento, Sicily she immigrated to the USA with her Mom and siblings around 1900. Her Dad already had established residency on NYC’s street of Sicilian immigrants, Elizabeth St. Grandma married my Grandfather, Francesco Battaglia in 1912, they were neighbors on Elizabeth St. He too was born in Sciacca, Sicily and immigrated around the same time. After having 3 children (my Dad being one of them) they moved to the “country”, the NYC borough of Staten Island settling in one of many Italian enclaves during those years. In 1923 they bought a home in the Mariners Harbor section and continued growing their family. Nine children later (one dying as a young child from pneumonia) their family grew exponentially. You couldn’t ask for a Grandma who loved her Grandchildren more, I believe a little more than she loved her own kids. All 24 of us were the apples of her eye. When I think of Grandma Battaglia I think of hugs, great big bear hugs and pinches with those Sicilian mits of hands she had. When you went to her house she fed you, even pushing food into your pockets as you left. One of my favorite memories of “things Grandma made” was her SICILIAN ICED ESPRESSO WITH ORANGE. In true Sicilian tradition her Iced Espresso was strong, very sweet, and infused with the juice and peel of sliced Oranges. Today, June 19 is the 45th anniversary of my beloved Grandma’s passing. Every time I make a pitcher of this it’s as if she’s opening her fridge in her big kitchen and taking the tupperware or Plastic pitcher loaded with Iced espresso, sugar, ice, and oranges and pouring a big glass for me, of course the glass was loaded with ice so it was the sweetest, coldest, most refreshing tumbler of a drink..EVER. Simply brew 10 cups of Espresso, use a good Italian coffee for this. Pour it into a pitcher. Dissolve 1/2 cup of Sugar (super fine works best if you can get it)..what? You’re staying away from sugar? OK, just remember, Sicilians love SWEET things. Since I’m making this Grandma’s way, use the sugar (or keep it unsweetened, not very Sicilian, just sayin….or use Splenda, or any other sugarless sweetner to taste). Slice 2 oranges into wedges. Squeeze each wedge into the coffee. Then add the wedges. Stir well. Taste…sweet enough? If not, add more. Let it chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Then add lots of ice. Stir. Let stand in the fridge for 1 hour. Serve. You’ll be addicted. Pour in Glasses filled with more ice. I’m smiling from ear to ear sharing this with you, a gift from my Grandmother’s kitchen. Everyday I am grateful that I had both my Italian born Grandmothers in my life. When you have your glass, raise it and toast my Grandma Battaglia…Salute’ e Cent’Anni.

1971..Grandma Battaglia in the center surrounded by her children…Anna, Betty, Accursio (Gus), Angelina, Pietro(Pete, my dad), Jennie (Jean) and in front, the twins, Margaret and Lillian. Staten Island, NYC


There is no Christmas Season without Struffoli. That’s that. At least in my home anyway. Struffoli are a holiday treat made during the Christmas season throughout Southern Italy. They go by various names depending on the region, people from in and around Naples called the STRUFFOLI. Further south in Calabria they are Turdilli. In Sicily they go by the term PIGNOLATA. The recipes vary as well. It’s a sort of pastry dough, rolled and cut into small pieces and fried. After that they are given a bath in warm honey mixed with citrus juices, or something alcoholic or toasted nuts, confetti, etc. This dish came right over with the Great Wave of Southern Italianimmigrants in the years from 1890-1940 and has become almost an Icon of the ItalianAmerican Christmas celebration. In Naples there’s a specific traditional recipe but in Italian America there are many versions, styles, types of dough that are used. My mom had 2 recipes she used, the first one is same recipe as the Anginetti (Ciambelline) cookie that i’ve previously blogged. The second one is a close recipe to that and it produces a semi-soft Struffolo. I’m going to blog that one now. The joy of Christmas and the Holiday season is due in large part to the memories created either watching or helping my mom make her annual Italian dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Especially since my parents and grandparents have passed away my siblings and our families keep the recipes alive, get together and recreate most or all of them and have something that no matter what tells us who we are and where we came from. We’ve passed this on to our own children who jump in and look forward to recreating this family recipes. The Struffoli is one of them. Oh don’t ask for an EASY or quick version. It’s time consuming and that’s why you pay up when you buy them at a Bakery. With some Italian Christmas Music on, and a few espresso under your belt you’ll enjoy yourself while you make these. Takes a few hours, how many? I’ve never counted. Do you really need to count when you’re connecting to your past and your present? I don’t think so. Mom never rushed through hers either. Enjoy the process. Merry Christmas!!!


















Cream the butter and sugar in a Mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Now add the beaten eggs in a stream as you have the mixer on. When This is all well blended add the vanilla and the zest. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup as the mixer is on medium. When it’s well blended and pulls away from the bowl knead it till smooth. Have a well floured surface prepared. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Then make ropes out of the pieces cutting them into small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used up. I place them on parchment paper covered baking sheets.

In a deep fryer or a heavy pot filled with the oil, heat it until it’s at 375 degrees F or when you add a struffolo it does the tarantella in the pot…(ie: i sizzles and turns around and around). Add a few struffoli at a time, like 10-15 and gently move them around with a spider or frying spoon with holes in it. When they are golden brown all around remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels. When you are done, start the honey by simply Heating it on a low flame with the juices and the 1/4 cup sugar. Stir until all the sugar has been disolved. Add the struffoli about 20 at a times and give them a “bath” in the honey. Using a slotted spoon keep basting the struffoli in the honey for about minutes. Pile them up onto a serving tray or bowl. Continue until all the struffoli are piled. Pour the honey over the top and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkle with the confetti (and toasted Almonds if using). You can even make small rings out of the batch. Again, up to you. Mine go into a big tin and we pick out of it thru the holidays.



palmsunday16 044I get excited many times during the year in anticipation of a Holiday or Celebration and the foods that are part of that season, day, or time.  One of my most favorite is the annual Catholic celebration of the Feast of St.Joseph which Southern Italian culture has created a beautiful day of Springtime foods only eaten on March 19.  San Giuseppe is especially  revered in Sicily where he is one of their most beloved patrons.  Huge Celebrations in all the towns and homes flow out into the streets and special savory and sweet foods are made.  No where in Italy is this celebration as exhuberant as in Sicily, but don’t worry, the rest of Italy celebrates it with many different sweet and savory treats as well  This post deals with my most favorite of them all, the SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Sfingi is a term meaning a fried sponge of dough.  Sfingi are also the name for what people in Naples called Zeppole.  However….when the talented Sicilian pastry makers started immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s some things made some changes.  I have no idea why or how this happened because at St.Joseph’s time all Italian Pastry shops made 2 types of “St.Joseph’s Pastry”. They are now sold from the beginning of Lent thru Easter with peak production on and about March 19.  The two types are the Sicilian Sfingi which has morphed into a large, sometimes oversized cream puff, baked then filled with a Ricotta Cannoli Cream.  The top of the Cream puff is placed back on and a then a rosette of Cannoli cream added.  To this crushed pistachio or nuts, candied cherry and orange peel are added.  Crowned with powdered sugar.  The other pastry is from Naples, and is called the ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE.  Using a pastry bag and a rosette tip a circle of the cream puff dough is piped out then slid into hot oil and fried.  It’s split and a Vanilla Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticceria) is added to the center, The top is placed on it and a rosette of the cream topped with a sour cherry (Amarena) goes on to finish it.  Both are amazing.  But so strange that the formerly fried SFINGI is now the baked one.  Whatever.  All delicious.  This is a dish that my mom made.  She loved making cream puffs.  She filled them with all sorts of fillings, puddings, whipped cream, italian creams, ricotta cream, chocolate cream.  But for San Giuseppe she made the Sicilian sfingi (she was not Sicilian!) and I watch intently as she went thru each step.  Let’s push this even further as in Palermo they leave the top off, sort of a Sfingi on the Half Shell.  These are the ones I”m showing you here.  Let’s go into the kitchen and bake!!!

First, you need to make the filling.  CREMA DI RICOTTA SICILIANA



1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or one very very very SMALL drop of Cinnamon Oil.

3 tbs. fine chopped CITRON

2 tbs. small semi sweet CHOCOLATE CHIPS









Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Add the butter or shortening and the salt.  Stir until the butter/shortening is melted and comes back to the boil.  Lower the heat and gently add all the flour in at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour leaves the sides of the pan.  Remove from the heat.  Now add one egg and beat into the hot mixture until it’s fully incorporated.  Do the same with the next two eggs beating thoughroughly after each egg addition.  Place a parchment sheet on a baking pan.  PLace the mixture in a pastry bag and press out a mound about 2 inches wide.  Or form the same with tablespoons.  Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven.  Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on racks. When cool slice in half.. Remove any wet dough from the inside it there is any.   Fill each 1/2 with the Ricotta cream.  Top with a candied cherry, slice of candied orange peel and some crushed Pistachio nuts.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 doz.   BUONA FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE!!!



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARich, Earthy, as tan and brown as an Umbrian landscape, I give you Pasta Alla Norcina.  Let me start
by telling you that this was again me playing “CHOPPED” with what was in my refrigerator.  The
entire recipe started with 2 fresh sausages and a container of unsauced leftover Cappellini.  Just  so
you know, Cappellini(Angel Hair)  is not the right pasta for this dish, so, there, now it’s out there and I can’t take it
back.  I will not apologize for this breach of the recipe contract only because the largest breach of
contract comes from not utilizing everything in your refrigerator.  I will give myself points for that one.
The refrigerator also had 1/2 pint of cremini mushrooms that needed my attention and 1/2 cup of
heavy cream that also was screaming to be used.  Everything came together when I remembered the
classic dish (sauce) from Umbria for pasta called NORCINA.  Norcia is a town in Umbria, most
famous for being the birthplace of the brother and sister duo, Benedict and Scholastica, who founded
the Benedictine order of Monks.  The other is the intense food culture which has pigs at it’s center.
So hallowed is the Pig in Norcia that the word NORCINERIA is given to butcher shops where the em-
phasis is on pork, especially sausages.  The other claim to fame are their truffles and mushrooms.
All of these factor heavily in their food ways and this sauce seems to be a real triumph of all those good
Start with the sausage..unlike the Southern Italians, Umbrians do not use fennel in their sausage, just
pork, pork fat, red wine, salt and pepper.  Umbria by the way is a region in Central Italy.It’s sort of a bridge
between the tomato and olive oil South and the butter, cream and polenta filled North.   For Pasta alla
Norcina for 4-6 , you will need 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage, without Fennel.
Slit the casings with a sharp knife and remove the meat.
In a large wide skillet, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil then add the crumbled sausage meat.    Dice a medium
sized onion and set aside.  Move the sausage around so it doesn’t only brown on one side.  After
10 minutes on medium heat, add the onions, and 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, and 1 tsp. fresh
chopped thyme.  The sausage already is seasoned with salt, so only add a little to season the onions.
Move the onions and sausage around the pan, add 1/2
tsp. of peperoncino and cook this for a good 7 minutes. Chop 6 Cremini or Porcini Mushrooms into
a fine dice and add that to the pan.  Let this saute’ for a good 5 minutes, make sure those mushrooms
are diced finely…or it will throw the cooking of the sauce of…Now add 1 thinly sliced clove of garlic…let
it get fragrant (i love saying that…because it does!!) about 2 minutes.  Now, add 1/2 cup of White Wine,
deglaze the pan all around so all the bits of meat on the bottom.  This is sometimes referred to as the
FOND (that really means the deglazed pan juices, but many use the term to denote the bits that are
caramelized on the bottom of the pan)..regardless of the technical’s a boatload of immense
and deep flavor.  Through out those over salty boullion cubes…this is where you will get concentrated
flavor from.   Make sure you use your wooden spoon or spatula to pull those bits off the bottom and
turn the wine a nice brownish color.  Let the mixture cook on medium for at least another 5 minutes,
or until the onions turn soft and translucent.
Now pour the cream into the pan and stir it around.
Are you noticing that I’m not using any addi-
tional fat like butter, or thickeners like flour to create this cream sauce….??  How can you make such
kitchen magic you say?  Ha…I’m no magician, a full bodied natural product like Heavy Cream and slow
heat will perform that magic for you.  This “trick” I absolutely learned in Italy.  There was something
different in Italy with their cream sauces for pasta..and that something is’s just cream.  Let this
simmer with eh sausage and mushroom mixture and in 20 minutes, it will have reduced considerably
and will have changed into a thick and deep colored sauce.

Now like SO many Italian and homecooking recipes, this Classic will have variations from cook to cook
or chef to chef or family to family.  I researched as much as I could on this sauce and these were the
ingredients that came up the most :  Umbrian sausage, onions, small bit of garlic, olive oil, Heavy Cream,
Parmigiano, mushrooms, wine, sage and/or thyme, a bit of hot dried chile pepper..Truffles showed up
very frequently, but since mushrooms did as well, and I had them I added the mushrooms to my dish…less
frequently, but still common to many recipes was anchovies, peas, parsley, pancetta.  I had some frozen
peas so I thought it would be a nice touch.  For those who are non-pea lovers, omitting this is not a mortal
sin. For those who like peas (I LOVE PEAS!) add 1/4 cup frozen peas into the sauce, just let it simmer for
another 5 minutes, then turn the sauce off.  That’s right..FLAVOR MELDING WILL NOW HAPPEN.  Push
the sauce to the back of the stove while you cook 1 lb. of Penne (most proper for the dish) or Cappellini
as I did here according to the package directions just till al dente (are you sick of me saying that yet? un-
fortunately, that’s too bad, it’s the way macaroni is meant to be eaten, you will not serve mush on my watch).

Isn’t that awesome?  We are
not done yet…drain the pasta and then add it to the pasta and on a low flame, for only about 3 minutes,
warm the pasta in the sauce.
Remove from the heat.  Stop, no eating yet.  Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to this
masterpiece you just created.  Always add the cheese at the end, especially with a cream sauce.  Mix
well and let this sit for a few minutes so the cheese becomes part of the dish.
Time to eat..for 4-6.  A wonderful dish of pasta and meat for you and your family or friends.  Buon Appetito
from the Umbrian countryside…or New Jersey,

Add a little extra cheese when serving if you like…I like..


PicMonkey CollageSeasonal dishes, they define our lives.  Whether it’s Thanksgiving Turkey or Candy Canes at Christmas or King Cake at Mardi Gras one can often tell the season by its specialty dishes.   Growing up in a Southern Italian American home there were and still are many dishes/foods that are like a calendar smacking you in the head telling you what Holiday or season you are celebrating. Spring. Primavera (it’s the Italian word for Spring, not just a type of Pasta, lol). Easter. Passover. Just a few holiday/seasons that March into May brings to us and in my home, on Good Friday the traditional family RICOTTA PIES would be prepared and baked post 3:00pm and NOT TOUCHED UNTIL 12:00AM EASTER SUNDAY.  This is maddening, although, we are modern now. The Catholic Church’s first Easter mass is around 4pm on Saturday before Easter so feel free to cut into the pie.  Certainly, you may stick to tradition and wait till that clock changed from night to midnight.

A little history with this pie I’m blogging about, in the old days Lent meant no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no NOTHIN!!! Southern Italians devised dishes that were accessible and celebratory for breaking the fast.  Ricotta pies which are known as PIZZE (Pizza is a word for pie…the tomato and cheese one is just another version) are made in both sweet and savory types.  Let’s confuse you further!  Every town and region developed it’s own types of foods..while this confuses many ItalianAmericans because we often think only the way that our family makes something is the right way..there are many versions of all these Easter pies.  Mine comes from my Grandmother’s town of CASTEL BARONIA , PROVINCIA D’AVELLINO not far from Naples.  We call isSWEET PIE, or PIZZA DOLCE and it’s a wonderful baked ricotta pie scented with cinnamon, lemon, orange and anisette.  There are similar pies made in the Avellino area withouth the lemon and orange zest and without the glaze on top.  That glaze is used in baked goods from my Grandfather’s town of Grassano, Provincia di Matera in neighboring Basilicata.  I wonder if Grandma Scaramuzzi’s version melded a few things she picked up from Grandpa’s family.  It’s how recipes evolve but the basic pizza is pure Avellinese.  The crust is a typical PASTA FROLLA, the dough used for many Southern Italian pastry/baked goods.  The first thing we need to do it make the dough. You need time for this, Rome wasn’t built in a day!!


2-1/2 cups SIFTED all-purpose UNBLEACHED flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. salt

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

10 Tbs. good  unsalted butter, chilled

1 Xtra Large Egg, beaten

4 Tbsps. milk

Mix all the dry ingredients well.  Cut the butter into a small dice and work it into the dry ingredients until the mix resembles small peas. Now add the egg which you’ve beaten with the milk then add to the flour and butter mixture and stir it all with a fork or wooden spoon until it will hold its shape.  Knead this until it’s smooth then stop. Form the Pasta Frolla into a disk and wrap in “Saran Wrap” or Plastic wrap and into the fridge for 1 1/4 hours.easter16e 021 Don’t get scared, those are disks of pasta frolla for a few pies.

Now we will make the Ricotta filling.

1-1/2 lbs. WHOLE MILK RICOTTA which you’ve drained overnight or earlier in the day in a sieve.  You can also , if available, use the Ricotta which comes in a tin already drained, That’s what I generally use but it’s not available everywhere.

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs



3 TBS DICED CITRONeaster16a 009




Beat the eggs, then add the sugar and beat, add the extracts, beat.  Now mix in the Ricotta, cinnamon, the zests, and the citron until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the pastry.easter16e 006These instructions are for a 9 inch pan.  I double recipe and make it in a larger rectangular.  Up to you.   Lightly butter the pan.  From the Pasta Frolla disk, remove about 1/3 for later.  The remainder you will roll out to about 14 inches and line the buttered 9 inch pan.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You want some of the dough over the sides of the pan.  Press the dough into the sides and then pour in the ricotta mixture.  Roll out the remainder of the dough for the top.   With an egg wash of 2 eggs and 1/8 cup milk brush the rim and then place the top over it.. press the sides to the lid forming a crust and cut away the excess.  Brush the top with the egg wash.  If you truly want a Grandma Scaramuzzi Sweet Pie, turn those bits you just cut off and make a B and a P out of them.  Place them on center of the pie and coat with egg wash.   Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  easter16e 001 What does BP mean?  BUONA PASQUA! Italian for Happy Easter..that makes it a real Grandma memory.  To test for done. use a sharp knife and place in the center going straight into the bottom of the pie.  If it comes out clean, your pie is done. Let this cool for 1 hour to 2 hours.  While it’s cooling it’s time to make the glaze.

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

1/2  tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 tsp Orange Juice

1/2 tsp. milk

1/2 tsp. Anisette Extract

1 tsp mixed Lemon and Orange Zest

multicolored “confetti” or non pareils

Mix all except the confetti until you can drizzle it.  cover with wrap until ready to use.

When the Sweet Pie is fully cooled, don’t rush it…make sure it’s cool!! Then simply drizzle the icing over the top making sure to get some into the sides.  You may have more than you need, use it for something else.  After you’ve drizzles add some of the confetti to the top.easter16dc 031 Now here’s some variations…you can do a lattice top  if you like, just cut the top into strips. Nothing at Easter makes me think, remember, and smile about who I am, where I come from, and who loves me almost as much as this does.  Grandma Scaramuzzi and my Mom are right there in the kitchen with me, guiding me as they once did to teach us this pie.  It’s About Easter, about continuity and the cycles of life, rebirth, family, love. About my ItalianAmerican and Southern Italian roots and sharing that with my multicultural family.  It’s fantastic and thanks for letting me share it with you.  easter16dc 030



001The smell of the ItalianAmerican Summer…Zeppole frying in oil..big vats of them…their steam wafting in every direction pulling you closer to the stand.  You are mesmerized by the bobbing of the hand pulled balls of dough sizzling on their sides in the molten oil.  You await, impatiently for the fresh hot balls to be drained.  Then with the deft hands of a master the Zeppolaio places your hot zeppole into a paper bag, brown or white, and adds a blizzard of powdered sugar.  Next they fold the bag and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE and hand it over to you.  Your heart is pounding (isn’t it??) and you reach with childlike anticipation at what’s waiting for you in that little sack.  You reach in and without hesitation bite long and hard on one and for a moment you’re impervious to the scorching heat from the steam that’s scalding your tongue.  Who cares?  It’s worth it. Every blister is worth it soothed by the chilly feel of the powdered sugar with a sweet finish.  Deep breath, of course not with a zeppole by your mouth or you’ll asphyxiate from the sugar dust…deep breath and then another bite, damn it just eat the whole thing.  Now you’re happy.  Sound familiar?  Please don’t tell me this is a unique experience for me, lol.  I KNOW you are with me.  Now just so you know, I like them with powdered sugar which is how most street feast vendors make them, or with granulated sugar which is how many restaurants and home cooks make them.  They are great both ways, infact they are awesome with a pinch of cinnamon in the coarser sugar.  What’s a zeppole anyway?

Well it’s simply a regional Italian term for a type of fried dough THAT IS usually ring shaped or a roundish ball. Zeppole come in many varieties.  This blog will make the one’s similar to the street feasts, but other zeppole contain lemon and ricotta in the dough, some use mostly eggs and pipe it through a bag to create a French cruller like small ring.  That is a more specific type of Zeppole that is cut and filled with Italian pastry cream and topped with an Amarena cherry for March 19th’s  St.Joseph Day. It’s a very Napoletana thing. There are also many savory types of zeppole.  So take away from this that there’s more zeppole than the one you may be used to.  In other parts of the  USA Italian Americans call zeppole by different names, like Pizza Fritta, or Fried Dough.  I’m from NYC so I use our regional term.  Here’s a beautiful tray of zeppole hot out of the fryer at NYC’s San Gennaro Feast:008 Now today is Aug.15, it’s Ferragosto the Italian End of Summer celebration that coincides with the religious FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, or Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The ASSUNTA is a national holiday in Italy and it’s a popular girls’ name.  My great grandmother on my mom’s mom side was named Assunta…006 Assunta Prisco Melito, born in Castelbaronia, Avellino and died in Napoli. My grandma passed this name onto my mom, Assunta Scaramuzzi Battaglia, but she went by Susan as most first generationers did to fit in more in America.  We used to celebrate her NAME DAY each August 15, here’s a picture from the 1976 celebration.0002 A delicious Cassata from Alfonso’s in Staten Island helped make it a festive day!  Zeppole are not specific to Ferragosto but they are fun and celebratory and you CAN make them in you own kitchen in a regular pan.  Zeppole are also the traditional start off Christmas in Italy. They are made on December 8  for the Immaculate Conception ( Immacolata Concezione).   Here’s how I make them…:





SOY, VEGETABLE OR PEANUT OIL at least 1 gallon


In a large stainless steel bowl add the water, salt , and yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for at least 15 minutes. It should be frothy on top by then.  Now add the flour and blend well until all the flour is incorporated.  This is almost a bread dough BUT you are not going to tighten this up or knead the dough.  Cover and let this rise for no less than 2 hours.  You should have a yeasty aroma dough that’s not quite as tight as many bread doughs.  Spongy and sort of loose.  Heat in a deep high sided heavy flameproof pot or cast iron pan (pot better, less chance of oil spillage and the ensuing disaster and/or mess.) and fill 1/2 way with the oil you’ve chosen and place on medium to high heat.  Most feasts use those large soybean oil containers. I use what I have on hand.  When the temp gets up to 350 degrees F, or when you gently place a small ball of the dough into the oil and it immediately starts to sizzle frantically your oil is ready.  Have a tray lined with paper towels ready to receive the hot zeppole.  This recipe should make about 36.  Using a damp hand pinch a small ball of dough and add to the hot oil. repeat until you are almost full in the pot, don’t overcrowd though.  Flip them as they turn golden brownish. When both sides are the same color it’s time to gently remove them using a kitchen spider or similar long handled implement that lets the hot oil drip out.  Remove the finished zeppole to the lined tray.  Now  continue to make more zeppole until you’ve used up all the dough.  Here’s when you need a kitchen assistant, it’s sugar time.  While the zeppole are still hot. add them to a bowl filled with 1/2 of the sugar. Roll the zeppole in batches in the sugar.  THEN in a paper bag, add the rest of the sugar and shake the zeppole  until they are all coated again, certainly you will do that in batches.  If needed, use more sugar. EAT. delicious.

TIPS or SIDE NOTES:  Every pan/pot and stove top are different so..while i’m giving you directions here PLEASE let your common sense guide you.  You may have the oil too hot, or too cool. So you may need to play around till you get the hang of it. PLEASE DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If it’s your first time HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE A PRO AT IT?? Be patient and you’ll find your way. As always, have fun cooking!!!







0tirpmi Last week I, A FOOD OBSESSION, had my first POP UP Dinner and I hope it’s not my last.  It was an amazing amount of fun, anxiety, great kitchen work, planning and working with some great people.  Through a Facebook food group I’m in, the MERRICK GIRLS WEEKNIGHT RECIPES group, my blog and my posts became known to the owner and chef of a Merrick, Long Island NY restaurant beautifully located on the water, ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE.  Chef Stephen Rosenbluth and his wife Jennifer had the idea to have me come to their restaurant on a Sunday night, create a special menu showcasing my recipes that I would cook with his wonderful kitchen staff and serve to members of the group.  FANTASTIC!!!  It would so much fun meeting all these people I’ve been in the group with for the last 2 years as well.  So I came up with a seafood menu and somehow it just evolved into a celebration of my Sicilian heritage.  Now TIRAMISU is hardly Sicilian.  It’s a Northern Italian creation most likely from the late 60’s -80’s up in the northern province of VENETO.  It’s said to be derived from the more traditional Zuppa Inglese layered dessert once very popular throughout Italy.  Growing up there was no TiraMiSu’, which translates as   PICK ME UP alluding to the Espresso which is the main flavor in the dessert.  I remember Zupp’Inglese as a child but no TiraMiSu’ which is historically correct.  America started seeing this dessert in the early 80’s or so and it took off.  If you tell me that as an ItalianAmerican in the NYC area you knew what Mascarpone Cheese was before the arrival of TiraMiSu in the 80’s i say…i don’t think so.  LOL..  TiraMiSu took over as the standard offering in all the Italian American and Italian restaurants in the USA.  It’s everywhere now.  Some versions good, some not so good.  It’s an Italian Crisp LadyFinger (called SAVOIARDI) layer, soaked in Espresso and sometimes a Liquore, then layered with an egg enriched Mascarpone and Whipped Cream layer, scented with Vanilla.  There’s some unsweetened cocoa dusted over the top and it’s chilled and sets up beautifully.  But let’s get back to what it’s doing here in my Sicilian PopUp.  I thought I’d play on the idea of a traditional Tiramisu but make it SICILIAN and a nice light ending to the meal.  I made a basic cannoli cream and added that to a wine glass. The Savoiardi were only 1/2 dipped into a syrup we made with Espresso, sugar, Marsala, Orange Peel.  All Sicilian flavors. The LadyFinger was place into the cream with the dry end up.  A drizzle of the syrup…a grating of Orange zest and a cherry completed the dessert.  Sicily in a cup…deconstructing a classic Northern dessert.  I think you have the idea now and you will want to make this for a party or dinner.  Let’s make CANNOLI TIRAMISU’!!

for 8 servings…have 8 stemmed glassed

takes..about 5 hours (not because it’s difficult, but the cream should be made at least 5 hours and chilled before making the dessert, overnight is best)

3 cups of drained RICOTTA pressed thru a sieve, or 3 cups of Impastata  Ricotta.

To drain wrap into a cheesecloth and hang over your kitchen faucet with a bowl underneath it.  This is the difference between the texture of Pastry shop Cannoli cream and loose runny homemade cannoli cream.  It’s worth the extra work.








Using a mixer beat the cheese till smooth.  Add the cinnamon and the vanilla. Beat till blended in.  Now add the sugar slowly and when all incorporated raise the speed and beat until it’s smooth and no lumps are present.Fold in the Chip.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

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WHISK together in a saucepan till the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peel. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until it’s reduced by almost 40%.  Let cool.anchordown22816 086

Now add a small amount of the syrup to the bottom of the 8 glasses. Into each glass fill 1/3 of the way with the cannoli cream.  One by one, dip 1/2 of the SAVOIARDI into the Syrup and let the excess run back into the pan.  Now place it into the glass on top of the cream.  When finished with all 8, garnish with a drizzle of the syrup, divide the orange zest over the 8 cups, and add a cherry to finish.anchordown22816 006Now serve!!  It’s a tiramisu’ idea with the flavors of Sicily…who doesn’t love CANNOLI???? The happy diners at the PopUp all enjoyed their desserts.   It was a pleasure cooking with Chef Rosenbluth and staff and a pleasure working with and finally meeting the Girls of the Merrick Girls Weeknight Recipe Facebook Group.  You can find the group and join it on Facebook at :

And you can dine at ANCHOR DOWN SEAFOOD BAR AND GRILLE in Merrick LI :


Tell Chef Stephen, Jennifer, Chef Jason and Murph, Christian, Bev, and  Megan you read about them on my blog!!!

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Memories taste sweet and one of the sweetest memories I have is of my Mom’s PIGNOLI COOKIES.  Hers were not unique but they were hers and that’s what makes them special. I treasure her recipe box which was really not how she cooked, only certain things were committed to a written recipe.  Her cooking was mostly recipes in her head…I wonder where I get that from.  This was one of her written ones..the PIGNOLI COOKIE which is the GRAND PRIZE if you landed the one or two that are in all ItalianAmerican cookie platters at the end of a special occasion.  Almond paste and Pignoli, the two main ingredients have always been wildly expensive.  Most bakeries today sell them for 29.99-35.00 @ lb. Making them at home is much cheaper, but not cheap.  Here’s Mom’s recipe card:aipignul As with all her written recipes, they are incomplete.  Her philosophy was , if you know how to cook, you can fill in the blanks.  So there you go.  I wanted to make them and went by memory.  Too lazy to look for Mom’s card.  I remembered it right down to the measurements…pretty scary.  I did add 2 other items away from Mom’s recipe, one was 3 tbs. of sifted Unbleached flour and 1/2 tsp. of Pure Vanilla (have we had this talk yet..go to your pantry..if your extract says Imitation, throw it out…buy a bottle of PURE Vanilla. Why are you cooking with fake stuff?  Unless you are baking everyday in big quantities the additional cost of the real item is not a burden.) The flour just helps stabilize the mixture, the vanilla I use in baking like one uses lemon in savory cooking.  It seems to carry the other flavors and enhance them.  That almond essence is just fantastic in these chewy almond macaroons (yeah, they are a form of macaroon).

So what’s the history of this cookie?  Marzipan is a very well loved and used ingredient in European confections, North, Central and Southern.  In Italy the region that Marzipan or PASTA REALE really is King is Sicily.  Certainly the Salento and Puglia have their share of Almond Paste treats, but in Sicily it’s almost a religion.  Almonds are a crop for the region and Sicilians include almonds in both their sweet and savory foods.  No one knows for sure where this pignoli (which is another hallmark of Sicilian cooking) topped almond macaroon came from.  The cookie is also made with slivered almonds on top.  Since all research I’ve read points to Sicily, I’m going with that premise.

Notice 2 things in my pictures that I don’t want you to do.  First is the foil on the baking sheet.  I had no Silpat, no parchment paper.  I improvised with lightly greasing a foil lining. In a pinch it works, but you SHOULD use silpat or Parchment.  The texture will be better.  They are also just a touch darker than they should be.  I received a work related call while I was baking them and that extra 2 minutes in the oven created a crispy sort of bottom.  They should be soft yet browned so, shut your phone off when you are cooking or risk a potential disaster.  Had I not pulled them out when I did they would have become AMARETTI, those toasted almond macaroons, delicious, but not what I was making. Seconds count in cooking and baking!!!

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                         YIELD:  18 COOKIES

8 oz. ALMOND PASTE, cut into small pieces then broken up with a mixer into small pieces


3 TBS. SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR  (omit this is you are looking for GLUTEN FREE)




CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR FOR DUSTING (Check the labels as not all Confectioner’s Sugar is Gluten Free if you are in need of this to be GF, if not, omit)

SILPAT or PARCHMENT PAPER  (Mom used Waxed Paper, but I think Parchment is a better choice)

Let’s start baking.  Pre heat oven to 325 F.  To the already mixed up Almond paste (you can use a food processor too) add the sugar.  Mix well, Then add the flour.  Mix well. Should look like this:pignoli 001 Now add the eggs and vanilla and mix just until the mixture comes together. It will be a sticky dough so don’t be alarmed at that.  It should hold a small ball shape.  Empty the nuts into a bowl.  Now, roll 18 equal sized small balls, i guess a teaspoon full is good.  Eyeball this folks, just keep them equal size. That’s also how things bake properly and at the same time.  Dip one side of the ball into the bowl of Pignoli.  Then place them on the Silpat or Parchment Paper lined baking sheet.  Use heavy baking sheets if you can.  Less chance of burning will occur. When they are all lined up, with room in between place them into the oven on the middle rack.pignoli 002 looking at the foil is killing me.  But, honesty in cooking and blogging so there you go.. DON’T USE FOIL!! Bake them for 15 minutes.  Then place them in the top rack and bake for addition 5 minutes only.  USE YOUR HEADS HERE!! If they look too brown or brown enough don’t do the 5 extra minutes.  Every oven is calibrated differently…so use the common sense adjustment for making these.  Your eyes are your biggest cooking implement.   When you remove them let them sit for 3-4 minutes, then gently transfer them with a spatula to a cooling rack.  Let them cook for 1/2 hour.  pignoli 004  My phone call created those over toasted pignoli on the cookies and the darker ring around the base.  No phone calls.. Let it ring. That’s what voicemail is for.  Now dust them with Confectioner’s Sugar.  pignoli 005  If not serving them right away no sugar dusting until you are serving.  MAKE SURE THEY ARE STORED IN AIR TIGHT CONTAINERS!!!  You will get that wonderful soft and chewy texture then.pignoli 022 Like that!!  Even with my extended accidental baking time they were wonderfully PIGNOLI COOKIE textured.  I can hear my Mom exclaim ” AI’PIGNUL”  spoken as Ai PEENYOOL…dialect Italian…  That makes this blog and recipe much more personal for me, and so, for you too.  You are baking an HEIRLOOM recipe, as much as that overused buzzword can be thrown around, it makes perfect sense here.  With anticipation I would watch my Mom remove the Marzipan (Almond Paste) from the plastic covered tubes (Odense was the brand she used) and steal a chunk or two of it before she continued with the rest of the recipe.  Food memories make for better tasting food.  GRAZIE MOM for this gift, her recipe is like a million others but I have the proof in my hands and her handwriting.  And now I pass it on to you.  Happy Baking!  Happy Eating!!


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Stuffed Pizza, or more specifically Sfinciunu di San Vitu (Sfincione di San Vito)..a specialty from the
sunny Island of Sicily which is eaten to celebrate St.Vito’s Day, June 15.  Actually the St.Vito piece of
this food puzzle comes from where the savory pie was first made, at a Convent of San Vito in Sicily.
The nuns did some job in putting together some of Sicily’s favorite ingredients.  A Sfincione is a
Sicilian word denoting their  regional pizza..a spongy doughed rectangular pie topped with a slow
and sweet cooked tomato sauce, anchovies, sauteed onions, caciocavallo, black pepper, olive oil
and bread crumbs.  This morphed in America to our Sicilian thick crust pie.  A St.Vito Sfincione is
a calzone or a two layered crust covered pizza, differing from the other Sfincione.  Confused? You
should be.  No matter…follow me on this St.Vito’s Pizza journey.  Let’s go to the namesake.  St. Vito
himself.  One of those early Saints of the Christian period who are part of various legends, in
addition to Central Europe, St. Vito became a popular saint throughout Italy, especially down south
and in Sicily where there is a huge following.  One of the prettiest towns in all of Sicily to the west of
Palermo is the beach resort of San Vito lo Capo (Cape of St.Vitus) where there is a huge cous cous
festival held every year.  Interestingly enough, this Pizza is more associated with New Year’s Eve than with the actual feast day of S.Vito.  I like to highlight though for this June 15 feast day.


This is my personal card of St.Vito which I got in the old San Vito Club in NYC..  My first introduction to St.Vito was when I was a kid and
exploring the old sections of Little Italy in NYC which then extended above Elizabeth St and below
Mulberry St.  In fact, the section of Little Italy now known as NoLita was once the first home in America
for thousands and thousands of Sicilian immigrants, Elizabeth Street.  Each group of people (paesani)
from a particular town would inhabit one or two adjacent tenanments and would provide a safe place for
new immigrants from that town to stay in upon arrival in the New Country.  My grandparents, both from the
town of Sciacca in Sicily lived in opposite buildings, all with other paisani from their town.  At one end
by the former Old Church of Our Lady of Loreto a group from the Sicilian town of Cimina settled and in
Our Lady of Loreto was a shrine to St.Vito. Every town had a Society on that street, and one of them was
the Mutual Aid Society of St.Vito for the people of Cimina.  All gone now.
So there’s a little history of St.Vito to get you in the mood to cook a pizza named after him.  This stuffed
gem is loaded with flavors and fun to make and eat.  It would be a great party food, or a full entree,
served with a salad.  This recipe will make one Sfinciuni (say it, you’ll feel Sicilian!).  Start with the dough.
Don’t be afraid, it sounds scary to make your own dough, but it’s not only tastier and healthier, but it’s
theraputic.  8-10 minutes of kneading is a great stress reducer!  In a bowl, add 1 cup of warm water. To
that add 1 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1 packet of dry yeast.  Mix.  Let this sit for up to 15 minutes. The top
will be frothy..IT’S ALIVE!  Add 1 cup of sifted bread flour and blend in well with a wooden spoon.  Now add
an additional cup.  Keep stirring, it should be getting more difficult to stir and the dough will be moving from
the sides of the bowl.  It will still be somewhat sticky. Slowly add an additional cup of flour now mixing with
your hands.  This should give you an elastic, smooth ball of dough. If it is still sticky sprinkle a little more
flour on.  Turn this out onto a floured board and knead for 8-10 minutes.  Rub olive oil over it and place it
in the bowl, kitchen towel over the top and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.
On to the filling…you’ll love this.  Saute’ 1 lb. of loose sausage meat in a little olive oil still just cooked, about
10 minutes.  Remove from the pan.  While the sausage is cooking, slice 1 large onion and dice one medium
sized potato.  Now add the potato to the pan with a little more olive oil, some salt and pepper and fry the
potatoes for about 10 minutes, till done.  Add to the sausage.  In the same pan fry the onions for 10 minutes
till soft and sweet, then add 1 sliced clove of garlic and when fragrant add 1 tsp. fennel seeds, 1 anchovy filet
and cook for 2 minutes.  Now add 1 14 oz Can of Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes (my new favorite in-
gredient).  add some salt and pepper, and stir.

Add all of the sausage and potato to the tomato and onion and cook it on medium-low for 25 minutes.  Some versions, and there are many of this, will include 1/2 tsp of ground Cinnamon. That’s up to you.

Now add 1 cup of coarsely chopped black olives, then a sprinkle of oregano and 3 torn basil leaves.
Cook for additional 5 minutes.  Turn off the flame and add 1/8 cup grated pecorino, and 1/4 cup diced
caciocavallo.  Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes.  Pre-heat your oven to 450 now.

So from friend Michael Gottuso who used my recipe when I originally posted this a few years ago, this is his picture of the filling after it was completed:0002

Time to stuff!  Pat down the dough and turn it out onto a board or stone counter.  With your hands press
it out into a circular shape about 3/16 of an inch (get our your kitchen and let it rest for about
5 minutes.

Add the filling to the center of the dough and smooth it out so it’s all the same thickness.  Gently
pick up one side of the dough and fold it over the filling..gently gently  so you don’t tear the dough.
If you do you can always patch it up.  Roll of the edges and tightly crimp them in a semi-circle where you
overlapped the dough.  This will form a crust.
Dust the top of the Sfinciunu with black pepper
and bake for 16-20 minutes, or till golden brown on top and bottom.  When done, tap on the top and
it should be firm and sound hollow.
Let this rest for 10 minutes before you cut into it, it lets all the juices go back into the filling.  Cut and
serve, feeds 4-5.  A very Sicilian combo here…serve it with a Sicilian red or white…a side of broccoli rabe or a salad.
Let me confuse you even with many recipes centuries old there are many versions.  One presses the dough into a round pan and it resembles a Chicago style DeepDish Pizza.. The top crust is covered with tomato sauce.  My preference is the calzone style.  You make it as you like.



Happy Sfinciunu i San Vitu making!  Enjoy your St.Vito’s Pizza.