Category Archives: RED ONION


0041Meatballs….one of those perennial favorites, all kinds, all types, all cuisines.  One of my missions with my food blogging and Social Media posting is that people open their minds to meatballs other than the usual suspects. Oh I’m not saying that your favorites aren’t fantastic but instead I’m saying look beyond the familiar and there’s a world of other types to enjoy.  Standing at my stove last night it was St.Joseph’s Day (Festa di San Giuseppe) which is celebrated with much fervor by Italians, specifically Sicilians.  You see the good San Giuseppe saved Sicily from all sorts of bad things and as most religious legends and traditions  do, there is celebrating on the days these saints are honored.  For Sicily there’s a host of foods, and since March 19 falls during LENT when meat was forbidden to be eaten, all the dishes are meatless, emphasis on seafood and fish.  Confused? Asking yourself, um, then why a meatball post?  BECAUSE.  These are not meatballs for St.Joseph’s day but, as with all recipes, they have a development genesis. Ground chuck in the fridge….one daughter who doesn’t like anchovies in her pasta (which was the one of the St.Joseph’s entrees I made)…killing two birds with one stone meant to have something for my daughter, make meatballs out of that chopped chuck.  Easy. Then the recipe developer in me took over and I paired the Sicilian-ness of the day with my meatballs.  No these aren’t a traditional Sicilian meatballs but, again, recipe development has many influences and the Sicilian holiday gave me the inspiration.  Ground Chuck.  Sicilian Oregano.  Pecorino cheese. Black Pepper.  Eggs. Plain Breadcrumbs. Red Onions. Mix, roll, fry in Sicilian Olive Oil and simmer in a mix of that oil, red onion, basil and Marsala Wine, also from Sicily. Sicily’s cuisine does not always contain garlic, oh yes it’s used but Onion will show up more often.   Originally I was going to use White Wine and I named the dish Polpettini in Bianco.  Instead  I switch last minute to the made in Sicily fortified Marsala.  Still in Bianco because that Italian Culinary term means NO TOMATO.  See, more pearls of Italian culinary wisdom.  You’re Welcome.548528_2971219081903_1304531591_32189688_1417227459_n From my hometown of Staten Island NYC comes this picture courtesy of the Staten Island Advance of the San Giuseppe (St.Joseph’s) Procession.    How does any of this factor into developing a recipe? Again, my opinion only, but a good recipe is developed organically…things that should belong together create a special harmony and when you’re in a certain mindset you become even more creative. E COSI’. Let’s make POLPETTINI IN BIANCO.

TIME: 45 MINUTES                                    YIELDS: 25 WALNUT SIZED MEATBALLS, approx.


1 LB. GROUND CHUCK (80% lean, 20% fat)




1/2 TSP SICILIAN DRIED OREGANO rubbed between your hands, or any good dried Oregano

1 TBS SICILIAN EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL or another good Extra Virgin, preferably Italian

1/2 CUP DRY PLAIN BREADCRUMBS moistened (hydrated) with 3 tbs milk or cream




2 TBS OLIVE OIL (or use the same you used above)




In a large bowl beat the egg and add the cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, all but 1 tsp of the onion, salt and pepper,the tbs of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When this is well mixed together, add the meat and gently blend till it’s all one mixture. Let this rest for 5 minutes. Form into Walnut sized balls and line on a foil or wax paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  In a large wide and heavy skillet heat the 2 TBS of Olive Oil and in batches add the meatballs and let them fry for about 6 minutes,397224_3628916283922_1247137950_n then turn, fry for another 4 minutes.  remove them all to a platter keeping them covered until done.  In the pan add the remaining onion and saute for 3 minutes then add the stock and the Marsala, bring to a boil.  Add the basil leaf then the all the meatballs and reduce to a simmer.  Let this simmer for 15 minutes but stir a few times.  Done.Remove from the flame and  give gentle stir.  Let them sit for 15 minutes…then serve.  Wonderful with roasted potatoes and a green sauteed vegetable.  Enjoy making these PURPETTINE CU’BIANCU….what’s that?  POLPETTINE IN BIANCO in Sicilian.  More fun saying it that way I think.  Happy Cooking!!



IMG_1707The last weeks of August are when tomatoes are at their peak in my region.  Jersey Tomatoes are prized for their full rich flavor after vine ripening and I happen to live in Jersey, so…there you go.  Our tomatoes are fantastic.  Truth be told I though our Staten Island, NYC tomatoes were fantastic too.  Ask my late father or my late Uncle Tony Scaramuzzi, two of Staten Island’s leading ItalianAmerican authorities and growers of tomatoes in their large home gardens.  They carried on that rivalry for years. They both grew amazing tomatoes. But I’m in Jersey where there’s a religion that worships the warm bright red orbs, big and small and this is the time of the year for them to be at their very best.  You can make sauces from them, oh yes, amazing pasta sauces but really…I’m way more interested in eating the raw product.  This is the only time of the year they will be this good.  August.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we probably eat them raw at least once a day during the season.  While I don’t grow my own our farm markets are bulging at the seams with local tomatoes of all different varieties and your friends and neighbors who grow them in their home gardens are very generous with their bags of tomatoes as gifts for you.  I have such a neighbor.  Thanks Mike!  When I walked into the kitchen earlier today the aroma of the tomatoes I picked in his garden was floating somewhere in the air.IMG_1694That’s when I knew it’s time for ……..PANZANELLA.  Ok, Panzanella, what is it?  Well let’s start with what it’s not.  It’s not made with toasted bread.  The bread has to get stale.That means you can’t force it.  STALE. Let it sit in a paper bag for 2 days after you buy it, and buy brick oven Italian bread, no seeds, if possible.  The  toasted bread is a crouton, delicious, but not panzanella. One problem in being authentic to the Tuscan Panzanella is the bread itself. In Tuscany the bread is salt-less.  NO SALT.   When I went to Italy the first time in 1986, my maternal grandmother, a native of Avellino told me “be careful when you travel up North (in Italy)….senza sale..o’pane senza good.”  LOL.  She was right. Saltless bread must be one of those “acquired” tastes. If all the bread you’ve eaten all your life contains salt, it’s a strange taste without it.  So unless you are baking your own bread chances of finding good Italian saltless bread is going to be a problem. Even in Italy, outside of Tuscany, they use their local breads containing salt for this dish.  This salad is a balance of bits of only a few things.  There’s a small amount of red wine vinegar that helps to soften and flavor the bread and that allows the tomatoes full flavor to shine through. Imagine, I can wax poetically over a salad of stale bread and tomatoes.  If you notice in my title to this blogpost I say Panzanella “STYLE”…that’s like a get out of jail card for me.  It allows me to be close to what’s thought of as the closest to the original without misnaming the dish.  My panzanella I made tonight contains no Cucumber. Why?  I love cucumbers.  One of my daughters loves cucumbers.  My wife?  Hates them (so misguided isn’t she?). So, since one cooks to make the diners happy I always make my version of Panzanella without cucumber.  Feel free to add it, or, stick with my Panzanella STYLE.  And put down that bottle of Balsamic. It’s not , never now or ever..a substitute for Red Wine Vinegar which is what you use in this dish.  Italy generally is fiercely regional.  Balsamic is a traditional aged product of Emilia-Romagna.  Panzanella is generally a Tuscan dish.  Not the same region so pay attention here!! Alright, enough of my lecturing on this salad..let’s make it now.

TIME: 2 hours                                             SERVES: 4 people

4 thick slices of STALE (remember, Stale, plan ahead her, this isn’t a salad with seasoned croutons which is what “toasting ” them in the oven would do.  coarsely chopped

3 large tomatoes, JERSEY VINE RIPENED if possible..if not, find good local homegrown or farm market tomatoes.  Dice them and leave them in a bowl.










Soak the bread in about 1/8 cup of water for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the water. Then season with 1/2 tsp Sea salt, 1/2 tsp Black pepper, 2 tbs, Red Wine Vinegar, blend, then add 2 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. Let this sit for 15 minutes.  Now add all the other ingredients:IMG_1697Then mix gently with…YOUR HANDS.  It’s how it’s done.  There are 2 methods, mine and then everyone elses, lol.  In Tuscany the bread is mixed by hand FIRST and then the other ingredients blended in.  I mix it all together, let it sit for 1/2 hour. Then I mix it again making sure the bread is well soaked.  Let it sit for 1/2 hour again, check for seasoning then serve. It’s that simple.  Add a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil before mixing prior to serving. Fresh ground pepper over everything.

It’s hard to enjoy this out of season which is why I’m highlighting it now.  If you attempt this in the winter months,  no matter how hard you try those winter tomatoes will stay rock hard and NOT give up the juices they do in the Summer.  Those juices are the real flavor in this salad and the soaked bread delivers it to you.  Note: seasoning. At every step give the salad a taste and if something is not quite right, a little salt and pepper will correct it.IMG_1700




004  While  the dregs of the Winter are in full force please do not think this is a recipe that is limited to any particular season. It’s great for any season but ESPECIALLY when the cold has hung around for months now and Spring is just around the corner.   Florida’s citrus crop is in season and what better way to celebrate than to have those flavors enhance your meals??  There’s a hint of sweet, some spice, some aromatics..the whole thing works in this vinaigrette..btw…the word for a salad dressing in French is VINAIGRETTE…not VINEGARETTE or VINEGRETTE.  A VINAIGRETTE may or may not contain Dijon Mustard, but it will always contain an OIL and VINEGAR.  Good OliveOil is a wonderful flavor in a Vinaigrette, I know, I know..there’s that tasteless neutral oil known as Salad Oil.  Not going to preach, but those oils just aren’t the best due to how they are processed.  I like flavor.  I like the flavor of an Olive Oil and for this dressing I used a Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Above all use a good quality oil,you want that taste and the vinegar should also be of good quality. Put down the Balsamic, it’s a horrible choice for this salad.  I went with a Rice Wine Vinegar. Oils and Vinegars of different types should occupy space in your pantry. Nut based oils are wonderful too but they just turn rancid before you would probably finish using the bottle.  This post is really about the dressing and not the salad however it was a mix of chopped Romaine,torn Baby Spinach, Clementine Segments and ripe Strawberries. They are currently in my local markets, seasonal fruits from Florida, how could I not use them this week??  This recipe will make you a cup of the Vinaigrette.

MAKES:  1 CUP                             TIME: 10 minutes plus 1 hour sitting time

note: Make a vinaigrette AT LEAST one hour before serving and do not refrigerate.  Room temperature and sitting time create the flavors.

  • 2 TABLESPOONS finely minced RED ONION
  • 1TSP COARSE DIJON MUSTARD or REGULAR DIJON if Coarse is unavailable
  • 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY (if all you have is dried, FORGET THE ROSEMARY, and use Fresh Thyme)
  • 3/4 CUP SPANISH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (i happen to love the flavor of the Spanish for this, feel free to use any other ExtraVirgin OliveOil
  • 1 dash of TABASCO SAUCE

Blend everything except the Olive Oil..When all blended in a steady stream whisk in the Olive Oil till the mixture is creamy.  Let sit for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours…rewhisk, then use on the salad of your choice.  Certainly, if you are not using it the same day you’ve made it, tightly cover it and refrigerate. This will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.


To make this “vegan-Friendly” omit the Honey and use Agave Nectar,I like the dark Agave better, more flavor.





August 15 is a special day…it’s the major secular and religious Italian holiday known as FERRAGOSTO, the public holiday where the whole country takes off.  Trust me, I know.  We were in Southern Italy (Basilicata to be exact) on August 15, 2006 and there wasn’t a store or business open.  An ancient holdover from Roman Times it’s a day to hang with one’s family and friends doing all sorts of Summer things, of course eating is a very Italian pastime so there is much feasting that goes on.  On the religious side it’s also the Feast of the Assumption, known as LA FESTA DELL’ASSUNTA, a day for church going and honoring the Mother of Christ and all those who are named ASSUNTA.  Here’s my family angle to this story, it was my beloved mother’s name, ASSUNTA SCARAMUZZI BATTAGLIA, although as with many Italian-American people of her generation there was an American name that sort of corresponded with it and that was Susan.  scan0001 There’s a treasured  picture from my vast photo archives that I took of my mom on August 15, 1976 with my new Honeywell Pentax (got it for my high school graduation) of Mom cutting a Cassata cake (a Sicilian ricotta cream filled sponge cake with fondant and candied Sicilian fruits around it) for her “name day”.  Italians not only celebrate a birthday, we also celebrate the feast day of the Saint you were named after.  That sure is a special picture.  Although my mom used Susan most of the time back in the 70’s when wearing a gold first name initial, usually with a diamond on it became real popular. My Dad bought one S for my mom.  Her mother , Grandma Scaramuzzi took one look at it and said.. in her Avellino-Naples accent “S ???    What’s this S??? Your name starts with an A” .  Never disagree with your mother. Here a better view of the cake, and it’s my favorite cake, still favored for special occasions by me so if you ever wonder what kind of cake to get me, this is it.

scan0002  Don’t you love the Demitasse cups for the Italian coffee?  Notice the paper plates though..Mom was in Summertime mode..didn’t want to wash any dishes so she pulled out the paper plates. No company was over, just us, so no need to fuss.

This sauce we will discuss here has zero to do with FERRAGOSTO and/or August 15.  Yet, my mother’s many types of pasta sauces with tomatoes is the tie in, she loved a tomato sauce with onions in it, sort of a Marinara, although that was generally tomatoes and garlic.  Whether it’s genetics or just from mom making those sauces I too love a sauce with an infusion of delicious sauteed onions sometimes and the other night, having an overload of red onions I decided to tweak my usual tomato/onion sauce.  In the pantry was a can of POMODORINI, imported Italian Cherry tomatoes, 15 oz can and they generally cook up quicker than a 28 oz can of San Marzanos.  Simma down, I love my San Marzanos above all but right underneath I love these canned Cherry tomatoes and they are very popular in Italy.  Let’s start cooking the sauce for the pasta now.

Serves 4        Takes: about 45 minutes

Sauces one lb of pasta

1 15 oz can of POMODORINI, Imported Italian Cherry Tomatoes..try finding these in an ItalianDeli, Salumeria, Italian Market, your local Supermarkets or online..or use a can of Imported Italian San Marzanos or Plum tomatoes but really, the sauce rocks it with the pomodorini.  OR 2 pts of cleaned and sliced ripe cherry tomatoes.

4 tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

pinch of oregano

salt, pepper

1/8 cup White Wine

1 large red onion FINELY DICED! can’t stress that enough.

1 lb pasta with indentations or holes, like Creste di Gallo, Orecchiette, Medium Shells, Casareccie, Farfalle, Mezzi Rigatoni, Pipette and cook till Al Dente according to package directions. As always the dish will rise on the merits of your ingredients.  Store brand pasta will not ever taste as good as an Imported Italian or premium US brand like a Barilla.  It’s only a 2.00 difference at most and you’ll be glad you did.

plenty of freshly grated PECORINO ROMANO

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the olive oil, seems like a lot but it’s necessary for the taste and the cooking of the onions.  Add the onions and season with salt and the oregano.  The onions need to get soft but you want to draw out moisture and let them intensify in flavor.  Cook them on medium for 8 minutes, stirring frequently, you don’t want them to brown.  Then add the wine slowly. Stir.  Smell that!! WOW…it’s an amazing fragrance!  Let this cook for another 8 minutes on medium low.  Taste an onion bit and see if it’s soft now because if you add the tomato before the onions soften in the oil, they will pretty much stay hard, only add the tomato when the onions are soft.  Stir and let this simmer for 20 minutes.Taste the sauce for seasoning (Salt and pepper at this time).

When it’s thickened, cook and drain the pasta and add the al dente pasta to the pot with the sauce.  Coat well. Let this cook for 1 minute then remove from the heat.  Drizzle with a little more of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 1/4 cup of the grated PECORINO.  Blend well.  Done.  No, there is no extra sauce on the side (I’m giving you ITALIAN tips here so work with me…’s not a pasta dish swimming in excess sauce, the concentrated flavors are carried by the tomato and the olive oil…).

Let me add that there is NO ONE WAY TO MAKE A POT OF PASTA AND SAUCE.  There’s Sunday Sauce, There’s Bolognese Sauce, there’s Meat Sauce, there’s Amatriciana Sauce, there’s Carbonara sauce, there’s  etc etc etc.  And certainly there is NO one tomato sauce for pasta. I hope this stroll down my family memory lane, the smells and tastes of our dinner table give you as much joy making and eating this as it’s given me my whole life.  Happy Cooking!!





“WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THIS ZUCCHINI FROM MY GARDEN, OR FROM A FRIEND?”..Have you been asking yourself that?  Stop. It’s a very versatile vegetable and lends itself to baking, steaming, braising, sauteeing, frying, stuffing, shredding, etc. etc.  I think most people just wind up grating them into all sorts of zucchini breads which are very delicious but for me there’s zero “zucchini” flavor that you taste in those cakes and breads.  Nothing works as well for me as the vegetable cooked with some supporting ingredients, take my ZUCCHINI with FRESH MINT and RED ONION for example.  What?  Mint?  You just winced a little?  Tastes like candy you think?  Yuck?  Let this blogpost make you a convert.  Mint is strong for sure but used with a little restraint it’s a very Mediterranean and Asian herb that wakes up much of those regions’ cuisines.

Summer is just not summer without a bounty or overload of zucchini.  I get a little misty remembering picking all the zucchini in Dad’s Staten Island NYC garden, especially the blossoms in the early morning..bringing the baskets into the house and into my Mom’s talented Italian-American hands.  What she did with those long and sometimes short lengthed zucchini was kitchen magic.  Nothing overly complicated but she turned them into sautees, stuffed them with meatballs and sausages and cheeses or other vegetables, fried them, stewed them with garlic or onion and tomato sauce (that was a real favorite), parmigiana, even the blossoms which usually were just fried, she would turn those fried blossoms into a Parmigiana as well..the best of the Summer dishes..the zucchini she’d also turn into lots of different types of pasta sauces..a’scapece (fried and marinated in vinegar and oil, peperoncino and garlic), need I go on?  Ok, yes she did, she did take out her box of Bisquik and turn out loaves of Zucchini bread, Zucchini muffins, Zucchini fritters…some found their way into Frittatas…I certainly miss my Mom terribly but I’m never far from her especially in the kitchen.  This recipe I will share now isn’t earth shattering but it certainly is wonderfully fresh tasting and is totally inspired by my Mom’s expertise with the fresh vegetables we ate from Dad’s garden every day.  By the way, those mornings and afternoons harvesting, planting and weeding now that I am being totally honest, were…the mosquitos in Staten Island may have been the most prolific anywhere on the planet.  The slugs that found their way onto your hands and arms were nowhere near as horrific as those swarms of mosquitos.  I miss Mom and Dad and the garden anyway.

FOR 4 PEOPLE                     TIME: about 1/2 hour

4 rinsed and patted dry ZUCCHINI, chopped into a medium dice

1 diced RED ONION

3 tbs. OLIVE OIL

2 stalks of FRESH MINT, leaves removed from stems



In a wide pan, skillet or even a dutch oven, heat the olive oil gently, then add the red onion and toss well with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt.  Let this saute’ for about 8 minutes careful not to let the onions brown.  Now add the zucchini and toss with the onions and olive oil, raising the heat slightly.  Add a pinch of salt.  Let this cook for 15 minutes, shaking up the pan from time to time.  The zucchini is done when a fork easily goes through it and it’s tender, so feel free to take a little more time to get it to that point.  Season to taste with a little more salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Then add the mint leaves which you chop right before you toss into the zucchini.  WOW..the aroma will capture your tastebuds immediately.

Serve.  This mix is also wonderful when tossed together with a short tubed pasta like Zitini, Pennine, Mezze Penne, Tubettini, etc.  Simply cook the pasta according to the package directions till AL DENTE, then drain, drizzle with extra virgin OLIVE OIL, a little salt, black pepper, and a good amount of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano or Caciocavallo or Ricotta Salata…mix, then toss in the zucchini mixture till it’s nicely (but gently) blended. Top with more grated cheese.  Phenomenal.


Mom and Dad are smiling!







SALADS are truly underrated in many kitchens.  So often you can really make an entire meal out of one and not with a tons of fats or carbs.  However I love carbs and one of my favorite ways to get my fix is through POTATOES.  Hello?? There are more way to make a potato besides french frying it or mashing it.  Not sure if there are many other ingredients with such great versatility in the kitchen.  Hit up a local green grocer, Farmers Market, Farm stand or your supermarket’s produce counter and you will find a host of ideas like a recent trip to the Farm market did for me.  I bought (locally grown, how fortunate is that?) POTATOES, ARUGULA, RED ONIONS, TOMATOES and for a side salad/dish for grilled chicken we were having that night I put together this salad which I crowned with a simple VINAIGRETTE and toasted WALNUTS.  For you nut averse types you will miss out on the nutty crunch and taste but the salad without the nuts is still quite wonderful.  I urge you to try it.

For 4-5 people.     Takes abour 1 hour start to finish, or less.

1 lb cleaned small redskin potatoes, boiled in plenty of salted water until they are just tender (a fork will glide right thru them), about 15 minutes then GET THEM OUT OF THAT WATER or they will continue to cook and start smashing onto each other.  Dramatic perhaps but once they are smashed they are overcooked and tasteless.  Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider and place into a bowl of ice water.  GENTLY, don’t turn them out at the same time because they will get crushed.  Let them sit for about 5 minutes cooling down.  It’s ok if they are slightly warm though when you make the salad.

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbs. Dijon Mustard

kosher salt,  fresh ground black pepper

3 tbs. finely diced red onion

2 tbs. good Apple Cider or Champagne Vinegar (or Sherry Vinegar)

2 ripe, seeded, diced beefsteak tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups chopped baby arugula

1/8 cup toasted walnuts

While the potatoes are cooking, prep everything else.  The vinaigrette is simply made by adding all the ingredients except for the oil into a boil..whisk together well.  Now in a slow stream whisk the OliveOil in.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve on side.

When the potatoes are cooled, drain, pat dry and quarter them.  add the tomatoes, and the arugula.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss together well.  IMPORTANT HERE…check the taste…you have to always taste you food as you go along.  If you are satisfied with the seasoning, then add the walnuts and the vinaigrette and toss, gently getting everything coated with the dressing.  Let this sit for a good 15 minutes.  Then serve.  It’s a great salad, especially during the Summer months.  Hit those produce markets, food never tastes as good unless you are growing it yourself.