Barbara first made Penne Ala Vodka for her son’s engagement party using a recipe from a friend of a friend. It has undergone a few changes over the years before it became an all-time family favorite…her granddaughter Stefani could live on this alone! Stefani recently requested that Barbara make it for her baby shower, and she was disappointed when there weren’t any leftovers to take home to Virginia! It’s always a big crowd pleaser and a must have for every holiday dinner.
This recipe is delicious and not your typical restaurant flavor. If you’re not a fan of a little heat, omit the cayenne but it’s really not a strong kick.
Prepare basic tomato sauce ahead of time (see recipe link below)
2 lbs. Penne pasta with the lines (sauce sticks to it better)
6 Tablespoons of salted butter
8-10 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more for a bigger kick)
6-8 shakes red pepper flakes (more if you like it hotter)
1/2 lb. very thin sliced Prosciutto, shred into pieces with your fingers
One of our best Sunday morning memories is of our mother frying meatballs for our Sunday dinner. There is something to be said for the wonderful aroma of meatballs frying along with the anticipation of the meal to follow, as it was usually shared with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It wasn't just a meal...it was an event! Sundays were always special in our home because we would get to spend time with our cousins who we had so much fun with. As soon as Mom started placing the cooked meatballs in the bowl we would sneak into the kitchen to grab them out of the bowl while they were still hot; a tradition that our children and husbands still carry on today! 😋 😋
2½ lbs ground beef 80-85% lean/20-15% fat (or 2½ lbs of ground beef, veal, and pork mixture)
1/3 – 1/2 loaf day-old Italian bread soaked in milk (should yield 8 squeezed-out meatball sized mounds of bread)
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
3 large handfuls grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
EVOO (for frying)
Place ground meat in a large mixing bowl, break up with a fork and set aside.
In another large bowl, soak bread in enough milk to cover. Let bread absorb milk then squeeze out milk between your hands. (You should have 7-8 handfuls, discard milk)
Place squeezed out bread on top of ground meat.
Add the onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to combine well.
Make a well in the center of the meat mixture and place all the eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and the parsley.
With a large fork scramble the eggs, cheese, and parsley in the well, then start to combine into the entire meat mixture. You can do this best with your hands that are scrupulously clean or with gloves…your preference.
Once well combined (don’t over mix) scoop out about 1/2 handful of meat mixture and roll into a ball and place on parchment or waxed paper. Continue making meatballs until all meat has been formed.
In a large skillet pour enough EVOO to about 3/4 inches in depth. Let the oil get hot, then working in batches, brown all sides (Don’t overload, allow each meatball some breathing room).
When meatballs are browned and crisp remove to a paper towel lined bowl or tray. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.
30 minutes before your tomato sauce is ready, place cooked meatballs in the tomato sauce and continue cooking the sauce.
Serve with your favorite pasta and enjoy!
Notes: These meatballs freeze well and can be used at a later date. They are delicious as a stand-alone meal with or without tomato sauce. Make them smaller and they become a delicious appetizer, add mozzarella & some tomato sauce for meatball parmigiana heroes!😋😋
Stale bread soaked in milk then squeezed out
Mix ground meat with squeezed bread, onions, garlic, salt & pepper
Make a well then add eggs, cheese & parsley then mix well
Creamy Garlic Shrimp & Scallops with Fettuccine - Twiins Style
1/3 cup EVOO, plus 2-3 Tablespoons
10 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large shallot heads (4 big cloves)
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced thick
2 cups white wine (we use Chardonnay)
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
3 Tablespoons fresh basil
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme (or 3 tsp dried)
3 cups heavy cream or Half-and-Half cream
2 lbs sea scallops (20-30 count)
1½ – 2 lbs extra-large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
sprinkle of garlic powder on scallops before sautéing
2 tsp lemon zest for garnish (optional)
3 sprigs fresh basil for garnish (optional)
1½- 2 lbs cooked fettuccine or angel hair pasta (use Gluten-Free pasta if gluten is an issue)
Heat pasta water to boiling then lower to simmer before preparing the meal.
Pat dry the scallops and shrimp on paper towels. Cover with paper towels and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1/3 cup EVOO on medium then sauté shallots and garlic until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
Pour the white wine into the skillet to deglaze.
Add the parsley, basil, and thyme and cook until liquid is reduced by half.
Transfer mixture into a medium saucepan.
Add the cream & half the Pecorino Romano cheese into the medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until reduced by half (about 15 minutes).
In the large skillet add 2-3 Tablespoons of EVOO. Using medium-high heat, allow the oil to get hot enough then add the scallops and sprinkle garlic powder on top. Sauté on both sides just until they turn opaque & feel springy with a pair of tongs. Don’t overcook. Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
Bring pasta water up to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Cover and set aside until remaining seafood (shrimp) is cooked.
Now sauté the shrimp in the same skillet until the shrimp just turn pink. Remove and place the shrimp in the platter with the scallops, continue to cover with foil.
Add 1/2 the cream sauce to the large skillet and quickly toss with the cooked pasta. Mix well and plate the pasta in individual pasta dishes. Pour remaining cream sauce in a small gravy boat to add extra sauce if desired.
Top with asparagus & arrange the seafood on top, garnish with extra sauce, grated cheese, lemon zest, and sprigs of basil, if desired.
Notes: Substitute with Gluten-Free pasta for a delicious Gluten-Free meal.
Anyone who knows Barbara knows she's a cannoli snob! She compares every cannoli she tastes to her favorite Italian Bakery in Lindenhurst, New York (including the cannoli we had in Italy). There are so many versions of cannolis throughout Italy and every Italian neighborhood throughout the United States that it would be impossible to choose which one is best... So, we set out to incorporate the best of all the cannolis we've ever tried and are so happy to share our best version with you. ❤️❤️
4½ lbs whole milk ricotta (drained overnight to remove all excess liquid)
1½ lbs granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 drops cinnamon oil (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
1/4 cup citron, diced
1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced
4 oz semi-sweet Mini chocolate chips (may substitute with bittersweet chips, depending on your preference.)
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, place the drained ricotta cheese into the mixing bowl, mix the cheese on lowest speed to combine and smooth.
Add granulated sugar and allow to mix in until dissolved completely. The texture should be smooth, not grainy.
Add the vanilla & cinnamon oil.
Mix until incorporated. Do not overmix.
Gently fold in the citron, candied orange and mini chocolate chips.
Place in a pastry bag and refrigerate until ready to pipe into cannolis & serve.
Before piping, cut the tip of the pastry bag large enough to allow the chips to pass through.
Notes: If using ground cinnamon, your cannoli filling will not be white.
Do not fill cannoli’s until ready to serve or your shells will be soggy.
Cannoli Cream Filling can also be used for cakes, cupcakes, and as a pastry filling.
We are so excited to share our all-time family favorite Easter dessert with you, Pastiera Napoletana or Easter Grain Pie, also known as Pizza Grano. During our trip to Italy last year, at a farmhouse dinner in Naples, we had a wonderful dessert at the end of our meal. As soon as we tasted it we thought it was just like Grandma Florence & Mom used to make! That unique flavor was such a wonderful memory for us. After Grandma and Mom passed away, the only time we could enjoy Pastiera Napoletana was to buy it at the Italian bakery during Easter time. We searched high & low throughout all of our recipe folders & boxes for their recipe but never found it. Then while gathering our recipes for this blog, we discovered that Teresa's daughter Tracy had it, or should I say had all 3 versions of the same recipe... Mom's handwriting and instructions made it somewhat challenging to decipher. Our first bite took us back in time...we nailed it! Don't be intimidated by the many steps to this recipe. We know it seems like a lot of work but if you break it down as we recommend, it's not difficult. If you're looking to add to your holiday traditions, this recipe is well worth it! Happy Easter 🐰 🐰
In a 6 qt pot, add the jar of Grano Cotto, milk and butter. Cook on the lowest heat setting of your stove for about 2 -4 hours. Stir frequently to avoid burning bottom. Do not let the milk curdle. The mixture should be thick & creamy and the grain extremely soft. (On the lowest burner setting it was still too hot so we put an additional stove grill on top of the cooking burner and it was just right to prevent the milk from curdling, see pictures below.)
Add additional milk if it dries out before the grains are soft.
Once the grain mixture is done, pour in a bowl and cool. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2 – Make the Dough
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add flour, vanilla, salt, sugar and orange zest. Mix to combine well.
Add the cold butter, shortening and mix until it looks combined. You should see little pieces of butter & shortening not mixed throughout.
Add the eggs and mix until the dough starts to come together.
While the mixer is still running, add 1 Tablespoon of ice water at a time until the dough starts to form a ball.
Dump out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a round ball then cut into 2 equal portions.
Roll each piece into a round ball until smooth. Cut 1/3 off each dough ball (use a scale to weigh each for accuracy). You should end up with 2 large dough balls and 2 small dough balls. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap then slightly flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for about an hour.
Day 2 – Make Part 2 of the Grain Filling (Ricotta Filling)
Using the whisk attachment, place the drained ricotta into the large bowl of your standing mixer. Add the sugar and eggs. Whisk until smooth, a few minutes on the low setting.
Add the cooled grain mixture and continue to mix a few minutes until well incorporated.
Lastly, add the citron, cinnamon, and Fiori di Sicilia. Mix on low until blended. Set aside until ready to fill pie pan.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter two 9-inch metal pie pans and set aside.
Work with one of the larger dough balls at a time and roll out onto a floured surface to about 12 inches round. Place over one of the metal pie pans; make sure the dough is hanging over the pan edge.
Fill the dough with half of the grain & ricotta filling but do not overfill. The filling should be about 1/2 inch below pan ridge. The filling rises quite a bit during baking.
Lightly apply water around the rim of the pie dough. This will seal the dough to the strips in the next step.
Using the small balls of dough, roll out onto a floured surface then cut strips about 1 inch wide. Lay them across diagonally to form a diamond pattern.
Using the overhanging dough, pull up & over the strips & press to seal. Place completed pie on a large baking sheet and repeat the same process for the second pie.
Bake approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or a little longer. The filling should be set, not jiggle. The crust should be golden brown. If the edges brown faster than the top, cover edges with foil.
When done, remove from oven and let pies cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
Day 3 – Remove pie from the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a great cup of coffee or espresso.
Notes: Don’t overfill the pie pan as depicted below. Teresa got a little carried away forgetting we had another pie pan to fill.🤦🏻♀️
Must be room temperature before refrigerating.
Place strips on the diagonal
Out of the oven
Put in the oven
Doubling up on grill to keep a really low flame to prevent milk from curdling.
Grill is doubled.
Grill doubled up so lowest flame is perfect to not curdling milk.
Pupa Cu L'ova means Eggs in a basket in Italian and is a traditional Easter breakfast enjoyed by children & adults throughout Italy. One of our fondest memories of Easter morning (besides getting chocolate filled baskets from the Easter Bunny) is eating these delicious Eggs in a Basket for breakfast. Every Easter our mom and her sister (Aunt Sally) would bake these delicious treats while we all looked forward to eating them. Our parents enjoyed them over their morning coffee while we enjoyed them with a glass of milk. Traditionally this scone type muffin is made with anise flavoring but our children preferred vanilla flavoring with our secret ingredient, Fiori di Sicilia. Your family will love these for breakfast.
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetend or unsweetend depending on your taste)
green food coloring
12 colored eggs (raw for medium cooked eggs or partially cook 3 minutes in hot water for hard-cooked egg )
colored sprinkles or nonpareils
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
Cut butter & shortening into the flour mixture by hand until crumbly (a stand mixer can also be used).
In a medium bowl mix eggs, 1/4 cup milk and flavorings.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add the egg mixture.
Mix until dough is smooth and can form into a ball.
Roll out on a very lightly floured silicone baking pad or board to about 1/2-inch thickness.
Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds of dough.
Cut 24 1/2-inch wide strips to form an X or criss-cross over each muffin cup.
Press gently into a lightly buttered muffin tin. Carefully press dough to the inside of each muffin cup.
With a small fork, pierce the bottom of each cup.
Place 1 colored egg into each cup, wide side down.
Take 2 strips for each muffin and criss-cross over the egg, pinching onto the edge of the basket. Make sure you get the egg as straight as possible as they may shift in baking.
Bake at 375º F for 22 minutes until lightly browned.
When lightly browned, remove from oven and place muffin tin on a cooling rack. Let cool about 1 hour then remove from tin and continue cooling on rack.
Put shredded coconut and 20 drops of green food coloring into a large plastic storage bag. Shake well until the desired color is achieved.
In a small saucepan whisk the confectioner’s powdered sugar with 2 Tablespoons milk and 2-3 drops of Fiori di Sicilia flavoring. Heat on very low stove setting until mixture just starts turning warm. The icing cannot be reheated if it turns hard so work quickly. Immediately use a small pastry brush, paint the icing onto the basket strips then dip in colored sprinkles.
Take a pastry brush and paint the basket perimeter with icing, then using a small spoon, add the green shredded coconut and pat lightly, making sure to cover well. Gently shake excess coconut off.
Serve the day you make these, just after decorating.
Notes: The baked texture should be similar to scones. The colored raw egg will have a cooked, soft yoke but not runny when baked for 22 minutes. Easter Egg Baskets are best served right after decorating while the egg is still warm.
If you won’t be serving the same day, refrigerate and allow to reach room temperature before serving.
Cut in butter & shortening
Hand mix after butter & shortenin g are combined
Combine eggs, milk & flavorings
Add egg mixture to flour mixture
Roll out dough to 1/2″ thickness
Cut strips for handles
Place round dough into muffin tine
Place strips forming criss-cross over raw colored eggs
Add 10-20 drops green food coloring to unsweetened shredded coconut
Stuffed Mushrooms Alla Grandma Florence, Gluten-Free
One of the dishes we missed most at the holidays was Grandma Florence's stuffed mushrooms. Wow were they delizioso! 😋 We are excited we nailed it as they taste just like Grandma's did. We're happy to share it with you and hope you enjoy them as much as our family does. These can be served as appetizers, a side dish to a roast, chicken, veal or pasta or a main dish if using large Portobello mushrooms.
We are so excited to share with you our chili recipe which today took first place for 'Traditional Chili' at Brunswick Forest Fitness & Wellness Center's '3rd Annual Chili & Mac n' Cheese Cook-Off'. We are especially excited that the chili was judged by several professional chefs & owner from our local area restaurants including Executive Chef Scott Euvrard from The Forest at Cape Fear National, Sous Chef Jon Michael Rehm from UNCW, Chef Garrett Swain from The Joyce Irish Pub, and Tom Mills, owner of Little Pond Catering. Thank you so much for voting for our chili.
2 to 2.5 lbs 80% lean chuck ground beef
2 lbs Neese’s hot sausage
2 large sweet onions, chopped
1 red bell peppers, seeds & ribs removed, diced
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeds & ribs removed, diced
In a large dutch oven brown the meat, using a slotted spoon remove the meat & set aside. Discard all except 2 Tablespoons of remaining liquid in dutch oven to sauté the vegetables.
Add bell peppers & onions to the dutch oven & cook about 10 minutes until onions start to turn golden. Add garlic, chili mix, mild green chiles, salt, pepper, cumin, harissa paste, and smoked paprika, combine well then cook another minute.
Return meat mixture back to dutch oven and mix well.
Add Hunt’s tomato sauce. Mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add all the beans with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover with lid partially open & reduce heat to low, stirring regularly for 2 hours.
Remove cover and continue to cook on low 30 minutes or longer until chili thickens to your liking. (We love thick chili!)
Ladle into bowls. Serve hot with your favorite garnishes: Sour Cream, green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, guacamole and our Rustic Cornbread-Gluten Free. Enjoy!
Notes: To say that Jack & Gary love spicy food is an understatement. If it were up to them, we would be eating this chili every other night! The blend of beef, sausage, beans, & spices makes this a delicious hearty chili for any night of the week and oh so simple to make. Our recipe is for a crowd so if you’re just feeding a few, cut the recipe in half. Any leftover chili can be frozen for 3-4 months at zero degrees in the freezer. Serve with your favorite toppings. For those who like extreme heat like our husbands, add your favorite hot sauce, chili peppers or Sriracha.
Our chili recipe originated from Teresa’s daughter Tracy, a long time ago. Over the years we have adapted it to what it is today. Thank you Tracy. ❤️
Many years ago while hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner I was looking for something different to serve in place of the traditional cranberry sauce. I don't remember if I found this recipe in the food section of a local newspaper or a magazine but it quickly became a family favorite. I took oranges and cut them in half, scooped out the insides, cut a zig zag pattern around the rims then put the relish recipe below into each orange cup. I then placed them all around the turkey on a large platter. It makes a beautiful presentation for special dinners.
2 apples, chopped (put in lemon juice to preserve color then drain)
I have been making this date nut bread every Christmas morning for what seems like forever! Originally I got this recipe from my longtime friend, Linda O'Donnell. We were next door neighbors and best friends since 1970. A lot of baking went on between us during our children's youth. Every Christmas morning Gary & I would spread some cream cheese on a slice, grab a cup of coffee and watch the kids open presents. We absolutely love it.
1 ½ cups chopped dates ( I use Sun Maid or Dole)
1 ½ cups boiling water
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts – nuts may be omitted)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Grease a 9¼ x 5¼ x 2¾ loaf pan with butter or cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter & brown sugar with dates.
Pour the boiling water over the date mixture and cool.
When cool, add beaten egg & dry ingredients. Beat well.
Add nuts & vanilla. Stir well.
Bake in loaf pan for 1 hour & 10 minutes or until knife comes out clean from center.
When slightly cool, remove from loaf pan and continue cooling on rack.
After completely cooled, cover in plastic wrap to keep moist.
Note: No need to wait for Christmas! Enjoy this anytime with cream cheese or butter spread on top.