Penne Alla Vodka

 

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. 

Ingredients

Servings: 8-10

  • 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
  • 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 1 qt heavy cream (light cream can also be used)
  • 4 cups of already prepared Basic Tomato Sauce, (or your favorite red sauce)
  • 4 heaping handfuls of Pecorino Romano grated cheese (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 lb. mozzarella cheese,  shredded or diced

Instructions

  • Saute garlic and prosciutto in melted butter in a deep skillet.
  • Add salt, cayenne pepper & red pepper flakes.
  • Add vodka to deglaze and stir well.
  • Add cream, red sauce, and Pecorino Romano cheese. 
  • Simmer & stir until it comes to a boil, don’t overcook.
  • Add mozzarella just after it comes to a boil to avoid mozzarella from balling up.
  • Pour 2 ladles of vodka sauce over cooked penne to coat.
  • Use remaining sauce to top individual servings and pour the additional sauce in a gravy boat for the table.
  • Garnish with fresh basil leaves. 


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Aunt Rosemarie’s Scrumptious Ricotta Sheet Cake

 
Our Aunt Rosemarie was always our fashion role model as we were growing up. Her beautiful red hair is her signature look and she always dresses so beautifully. Aunt Rosemarie always had a way of making us feel so special. Whenever we visited her in Brooklyn, as children or as adults, she cooked so much food that she could have fed all of Brooklyn! We have fond memories of the long folding tables that she and our uncle Ralph set up in the living room to accommodate our large family.  For us, it was like going to a fine Italian restaurant, enjoying appetizers, pasta, main dish, and desserts.  The meal was endless and oh so good! We are happy to share her delicious ricotta sheet cake that she gave us during a recent phone call. This cake is a real crowd pleaser, extremely moist and so easy to make. ❤️❤️

Servings: 12     Prep Time: 10 minutes      Bake Time: 1 hour 25 minutes   Difficulty: Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box of your favorite yellow cake mix (to make our Gluten-Free version, click here)
  • 2 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • juice of 1 small lemon or 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • fresh blueberries or raspberries
  • powdered sugar 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a medium size bowl mix the ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice with a wooden spoon and set aside.
  3. Follow directions on cake mix box and pour into a greased & floured  9 x 13-inch baking pan.
  4. Pour the ricotta mixture directly on top of the cake batter in the pan. No need to spread or stir as the ricotta will sink to the bottom and form a nice layer.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour and 25 minutes until top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the pan placed on a cooling rack. Once cooled cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with fresh fruit just before serving.
  8. Enjoy!

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Italian Cannoli Cream – Twiins Style

 

Italian Cannoli Cream - Twiins Style

  • Servings: 40-60 Cannolis
  • Difficulty: Easy

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. ❤️❤️

Ingredients

  • 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.)

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. Add granulated sugar and allow to mix in until dissolved completely. The texture should be smooth, not grainy.
  3. Add the vanilla & cinnamon oil.
  4. Mix until incorporated. Do not overmix.
  5. Gently fold in the citron, candied orange and mini chocolate chips.
  6. Place in a pastry bag and refrigerate until ready to pipe into cannolis & serve.
  7. 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.

 

 

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Homemade Limoncello

 

After our trip to Italy in 2018 we came back with an abundance of inspiration, one of which was making our own Limoncello as we became so fond of drinking it at the end of each meal while traveling throughout Italy. We even bought lemon trees to grow our own lemons ( photo on left shows the beautiful flower lemon trees produce). We’re not sure if they will ever bear fruit but we are trying.  Limoncello has its roots in southern Italy, more specifically, the Amalfi coast, Capri & Sorrento. Of course you can buy it in any liquor store for less money but where’s the fun in that?

While at Barbara’s monthly neighborhood bowling night she was sharing her new-found love of Limoncello with the  girls. Jane said “Lets have a Limoncello Party at your house” and so we did! The night was filled with fun and laughter despite the many spills and messy kitchen… but it was worth it.  My only regret was not having enough room to invite the whole neighborhood.

The bottle should be kept in the freezer along with some shot glasses as Limoncello is best served in frozen  glasses. It is served like this all over Italy. The colder the liqueur the smoother the taste.

Note: I decided I wanted to grow my own fennel to make delicious fennel liqueur; which we also sampled in Naples at a farmhouse dinner. Although the flavor is different from Limoncello, it’s just as good. So Jane, Teresa and I planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t survive the deer!!!!!!! We will try again. 🤞

Ingredients

  • 10 organic lemons, unwaxed
  • 750 millimeters/ 3 cups + 2 Tablespoons Everclear Pure Grain Alcohol, 150 proof/75.5% volume
  • 3½ cups white sugar
  • 5 cups water

Instructions

  1. Using a small sharp knife, peel off the lemon zest as thin as possible avoiding the white pith, which is bitter.
  2. Place all the lemon peels directly into the bottle of alcohol.
  3. Leave to macerate for a minimum of 4 weeks or more in a dark closet. Keep bottle our of direct sunlight.
  4. After maceration is complete, prepare the sugar syrup.
  5. Mix water and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Continue to stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  6. Bring syrup to a simmer until boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, about 1 hr.
  7. In a large saucepan or container big enough add  the liter of alcohol.
  8. Continuously stirring, start adding the sugar syrup. Once you’ve added 4 cups, taste it. The Limoncello will be pretty strong. Add more sugar syrup and taste again. Add more sugar syrup for a milder taste, or reduce it for a stronger taste.  It is not recommended to dilute the alcohol base too much. Authentic Italian homemade limoncello is about 38% vol or 76 Proof.
  9. Once you’ve reached the perfect flavor, bottle your limoncello in glass bottle using a funnel.
  10. Always store limoncello in the freezer! It’ll have an amazing “creamy” taste. Fresh made limoncello reaches its perfection in a few days after bottling.

The ladies of Meadow Park “Distillery”:  Jane, Ellen, Stephanie, Vickie, Lois, Janis, Diane, Barbara.  Teresa was taking the pictures!

 

 

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Fennel Sausage, Peppers & Onions in Spaghetti Squash Boats

 

Fennel Sausage, Peppers & Onions in Spaghetti Squash Boats

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

Today was the day to use up the spaghetti squash that was sitting on the counter for 2 weeks. We were remembering the zucchini or eggplant boats we used to make many moons ago & decided this was perfect for the spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is always a big hit with Jack & Gary. We had all the ingredients on hand so it was a no brainer. It's really delicious and satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 2 small spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out
  • 1 lb chopped bulk pork
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 extra-large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
  • EVVO to drizzle over squash
  • 1½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder for squash
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4-1/2 inches pieces (we had 1 orange & 1 yellow on hand)
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  • Drizzle some EVOO over each half of squash then rub entire squash interior surface.
  • Sprinkle each half with salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder.
  • Place each squash half face down on sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes depending, on squash size. Don’t over bake… squash skin should be tender but firm to touch.
  • While the squash is baking, brown the sausage meat & fennel. Once browned, add the salt & pepper, onions, minced garlic, and sliced peppers. Sauté until soft and golden. Keep warm.
  • When squash is done, remove from oven and let cool.
  • Once the squash is cooled take 2 forks to shred the squash, being careful not to cut through the skin. Spoon sausage mixture on top of each half.
  • Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and return to oven until cheese melts.
  • Top with grated cheese and serve hot.


Note: We served this dish with sautéd Kale and garlic along with an arugula & baby spinach salad with a homemade lemon/balsamic vinaigrette.

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Escarole & Beans

 

Escarole & Beans

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy

Growing up in our Catholic Italian home, our family honored the tradition of not eating meat on Friday's. Most Friday's we ate fish but at least twice a month we ate the Escarole & Beans. Mom would cook this escarole (pronounced Scadahl) dish the same way her mother, Grandma Florence, did during the depression era. Grandma had 7 children to feed and this meal was inexpensive, healthy, full of protein and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 3 large heads of escarole
  • 3  15-ounce cans Progresso cannellini beans
  • 3½ quarts chicken broth
  • 11 cloves of garlic, peeled & smashed and whole
  • 1 tsp salt (omit if salt sensitive)
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • dash of pepper to taste
  • grated Pecorino Romano for topping

Directions

  1. Fill an 8-quart pot halfway up with chicken broth, add 3 smashed garlic cloves and bring to a boil.
  2. Add escarole to boiling broth and boil for approximately 40 minutes or until the escarole and broth have reduced by 2/3 and the green color changes to more of an olive green.
  3. Heat EVOO in a large saucepan and saute 8 cloves of smashed garlic until they just start to turn yellow. Do not burn.
  4. Add cannellini beans to garlic and oil. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer on low for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. When done shut heat and keep covered.
  5. Once escarole and broth are reduced by 2/3 pour the cannellini beans into the escarole pot and mix well.
  6. Place a lengthwise slice of day-old Italian bread in a pasta bowl. Pour a few ladles of escarole & beans with the liquid over the bread, letting the liquid soak into the bread.
  7. Top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.


Note: Our husbands both liked adding sliced Italian Sweet Sausage, as they are true carnivores!

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