With Heather Maclean
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Secret family recipes: Featuring her Mama’s meatballs and her mother-in-law’s Ti Amo Tiramisu, the dessert that loves you back.
From one-dish feasts to the perfect potluck take-alongs, including entertaining tips for any occasion.
Spotlighting lighter fare, smaller portions, and sensational salads (as well as Panini!).
Kid friendly meals: How to go beyond mac-and-cheese, and get little ones involved in the kitchen.
Whether you’re packing lunches or fixing a weekend feast, Teresa has just the recipe that will keep your family coming back for more–and living La Bella Vita!
A huge thank you to the amazing people who helped make this book a reality. Thank you for your tireless efforts, vision, and support! I could not have done it without you!
Susan Ginsburg, the most fabulous agent anyone could ever have—you are brilliant and wonderful!; the entire staff at Writers House, the best agency in the world!; the incredibly talented group at Running Press, especially Jennifer Kasius, Nicole DeJackmo, Chris Navratil, Craig Herman, and Frances Soo Ping Chow; culinary god Rick Rodgers; photographer Ben Fink and his team; and a very special thank you to my amazing writer and friend Heather Maclean.
I can’t help it. Every time I sit down to write this intro to my Italian Family Cookbook, two things keep popping into my head: that cheesy Olive Garden commercial, “When you’re here, you’re family”; and what I said about Caroline Manzo when she insulted my meatballs on the Rachael Ray show: “Caroline’s as Italian as the Olive Garden.”
If you read Skinny Italian, you know I’m not a huge fan of Olive Garden because it takes traditional healthy Italian dishes and turns them into heart-clogging servings of ungodly proportions. (Forget Jersey Shore, it’s the Olive Garden that gives us Italians a bad name!) I am, however, a huge fan of Caroline Manzo. (Even if she’s only 1/16 Italian, or whatever she is . . .)
Caroline is the older sister of my youngest daughter’s godmother. Get it? I know with big Italian families it gets complicated real quick. My baby Audriana is the goddaughter of Caroline’s baby sister Dina Manzo. And Jacqueline Laurita, who is married to Caroline and Dina’s brother Chris Laurita, is one of my best friends. But while everyone on The Real Housewives of New Jersey seems to be related, I am not related to any of the Manzos or Lauritas (or, thank you sweet baby Jesus, the Staub/Merrills.) By blood, anyway. By heart, we’re all family.
When in Rome . . .
Famiglia = fah-MEAL-ya
That’s how it is with us Italians. Family is the cornerstone of Italian life. Our entire social structure, our economy, our politics, and, of course, our food is centered around family. We spoil our kids rotten, so much so that they never want to leave home. Albie and Christopher Manzo are adorable, but don’t let them fool you. Their “L” in “GTL” (Gym-Tanning-Laundry) is “Leave it for Mom.” That’s just how it is, and how we moms like it. I lived with my parents until I moved in with my husband (that’s how good Catholic girls where I come from do it). My mama and papà still come over to my house almost every day (and no, contrary to Internet rumors, they do not live with me, and they do not live in my basement—my house doesn’t even have a basement!). I see my brother, Joe Gorga, his wife Melissa, my niece Antonia, and nephews Gino and Joey several times a week. Same with all of Joe’s sisters and brothers, their families, my cousins, my aunts, and my mother- and father-in-law . . . and no, we don’t always get along. Do I sometimes wish my cousin would stop with the lame jokes? Yes. Do I wish my baby sister-in-law didn’t copy everything I do down to the shoes I wear and the chairs on my front porch? Of course! But you know what they say: “You can’t pick your family.”
Well, half of them anyway. You can’t help where you were born, but you can go out and make your own family. To me, family is everything—not just the family I came from, but also the family I made. I think it’s the most important thing we ever do in life—to find and build our own family. And to me, “family” is not just the people you are related to, it’s the people you love. Your spouse, sure, and your children, but also your partner, your best friend, your dorm mates, your sorority sisters, your friends at church . . . they’re all your family.
I get letters all the time from people telling me they wish they were Italian or they wish they were part of my family. Let’s clear this up right now: YOU ARE! Italians count their close friends as family. And you, sweetheart, are as good as gold. I wish I could have every one of you to dinner at my house, but for now, let me bring my kitchen to yours.
So welcome to my Family Cookbook! Salute!
Oh, and that Meatball Throwdown on Rachael Ray? I want a rematch! I thought we were cooking authentic Italian food. Caroline deep-fried her meatballs. Deep-fried? Who does that? Does she serve fried Twinkies for dessert? You could deep-fry a sock and it would taste better than a baked meatball . . . although I guess you might not live long enough to enjoy it!
There I go smack talking again. Buckle up, Baby Dolls. This is not your mama’s cookbook.
We Do It My Way
If you bought my first, unbelievably successful New York Times best-selling cookbook, Skinny Italian, grazie, grazie, grazie from the bottom of my heart. If you didn’t, there are a few things you missed that are crucial to cooking my way (which, of course, is the right way). Since you’ll need them for this book, here are the Cliffs Notes, or Spark Notes, or whatever they call cheating in school by not reading the actual book these days . . . .
MY NAME IS . . . MY NAME IS . . .
Let’s get this out of the way right away. I know you’ve heard it pronounced “Jew-dice,” but the correct way to say my last name is like this (quickly, and with an Italian accent please): Judy Chay. Get it right. Tell your friends. (Thank you. Thank you very much!)
OLIVE OIL: THE ONLY OIL
In Skinny Italian, I dedicated an entire chapter to this healthy liquid gold (Chapter 3: Blessed Virgin Olive Oil). I told you to use it every single day. It’s a little more expensive than vegetable oil, yes, but what you’ll save in medical bills later will more than make up for it. I try to never, ever, ever use vegetable oil. Not even when I’m baking. And you’ll see in this entire book, there is not one recipe that calls for vegetable oil of any kind, including that crazy canola oil.
When in Rome. . .
Giudice = Jew-DEE-chay
Of course, there are tons of different kinds of olive oil, and in my last book, I told you how to shop for it, store it, and serve it. Here’s the take-away: only use EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. Period. Nothing else matters. If you can, look for a bottle with olives picked and pressed in Italy, but the most important thing is the EXTRA-VIRGIN part.
To be a great cook, you have to know a few basic things about how to cook with herbs. For the most part, use FRESH basil, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Use DRIED oregano and sage. Most herbs can go into your cooking at any time, but you should add basil and parsley toward the end.
GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT
It goes without saying that the better quality ingredients you use, the better your final dish will be. Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese cooks and tastes better than plain Parmesan, but it’s also harder to find and a bit more expensive. Get the best your budget can afford. If you want to substitute Parmesan, feel free. Your recipes will still rock, I promise. Just promise me you won’t buy anything powdered in a non-refrigerated can.
FINGER COOKIN’ GOOD
When I’m in the kitchen, I have my hands in everything. And I mean everything. Part of enjoying your food is touching it, caressing it, working it good with your hands. I do a lot of mixing with my hands. I knead with my hands. You can use fancy mixers and kitchen tools, but to me, the best cooking involves just you and the food. (You know I’m all about “cleansiness” so of course I always have clean hands when I cook.)
*** Teresa’s Tip ***
It might seem like a shortcut to just use canned chopped tomatoes, but it’s not a good one. They add chemicals to the can to keep the pieces looking perfect (kind of like the fast-food burgers that never, ever decompose . . .). We don’t like unnecessary chemicals, especially when cooking for our family, and we want the pieces to melt, not just sit there and look pretty. (Come on, tomatoes—you’re not too pretty to work!)
PLEASE SQUEEZE THE TOMATOES
One of the cornerstones of Italian cooking is a good red sauce. And you can’t get a good red sauce without breaking up the tomatoes because you need the smaller pieces to melt into the sauce. If you’re not using fresh, use whole canned tomatoes (imported Italian plum tomatoes are best). Hold the can over your pan, reach in carefully, and squish the tomatoes into chunks as they slide out through your fingers. You want the pieces to be the size of large stuffed olives. And go ahead and pour the juices from the can in there as well.
FABULICIOUS IS AS FABULICIOUS DOES
As so many of you have written me and attested—I already knew this because I have four kids and don’t work out—if you eat home-cooked, fresh, authentic Italian food, you can have your pasta and your skinny jeans, too. It’s a natural diet with lots of fresh veggies, fish, light sauces, and our friend, olive oil. But since this book is a family cookbook, and growing kids shouldn’t be on a calorie- or fat-restricted diet (and since I have a “no obsessing about your food” rule), I’m not including the complete nutritional information in this book. I try to cook as healthfully as possible, but not all of the recipes I’m giving you are meant for weight loss; some are once-in-awhile, let-loose celebration dishes.
But don’t worry, more than half of the recipes here are, in fact, “skinny.” I have marked them with this pretty icon: . And whenever I can, I give you substitutions to make a recipe “skinny,” so look for the sidebars, too!
And since so many of us are multi-tasking, working maniacs, in addition to giving you a whole chapter of quick-and-easy meals, I’ve also marked all “quick” recipes that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less with this icon: .
*** Substitute This ***
Most of my recipes include the full-bodied flavors of things like heavy whipping cream and fresh mozzarella cheese. I have no problem cooking with these things because they’re used in such small quantities that what you get per serving isn’t a big deal. And a lot of time, with reduced-fat products, you’re just trading in fat for extra salt (lots and lots of extra salt). So read the labels! But if you want to, you can always substitute light cream for heavy cream, and reduced-fat cheese for regular cheese. But I will not allow you to substitute margarine for butter (no way, no how) or anything for extra-virgin olive oil. No sir!
With a good base sauce, you can make a million variations. I gave you one—The Quickie Tomato Sauce—in Skinny Italian, and since it’s so yummy and used so many times in this book, I’m gonna give it to you again. I’m also giving you a new base sauce that’s a little hotter. The Quickie is a sweet sauce; Snappy Red Sauce is spicier. Feel free to interchange them in any of the recipes to match your mood. If you want to add more basil or oregano to either one, be my guest, but keep in mind that those flavorings are usually in the finished dish, too, so you could unintentionally reach herb overload.
The Quickie Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3½ cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can imported whole Italian plum tomatoes, broken up with their juices
¼ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato paste. Bring just to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the basil. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes. The End.
Snappy Red Sauce
Makes about 3½ cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick purée
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and salt. (A little salt brings out the onion flavor.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Stir in the tomatoes with their purée and the parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Serve hot as a pasta sauce.
Makes 1 cup, enough for 2 pounds of pasta
Pesto is another go-to sauce that I use for hot dishes, cold dishes, pasta, sandwiches, you name it. So here is my best recipe, named for my sweetest younger daughter.
⅓ cup pine nuts
1 ½ cups packed fresh basil leaves, well rinsed and dried in a salad spinner
3 garlic cloves, crushed under a knife and peeled
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a plate and cool completely.
2. To make the pesto by hand: Using a pestle, crush a handful of the basil leaves in a large mortar (at least 2-cup capacity), pushing down with the pestle and moving your wrist in a circular motion to squeeze and crush, but not pound, the leaves. Keep adding basil leaves until they have all been crushed. Add the garlic and crush it into the mixture. Gradually work in about half of the oil. Now add the pine nuts, and crush them in. Finally, work in the cheese, then the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. To make the pesto in a food processor: Fit the processor with the metal chopping blade. With the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube to mince the garlic. Add the pine nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the basil and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. With the machine running, gradually pour in the oil. Season with the salt and pepper.
4. Transfer the pesto to a small, covered container. Pour a small amount of oil over the surface of the pesto to seal it. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Stir well before using.
*** Papà, Can You Hear Me? ***
My father’s name is Giacinto Gorga. And yes, Gia is named after him. I call him “Papà” or “Daddy,” but never “Dad.” He hates “Dad.” To his Italian ears, it sounds like “Dead.” “Don’t call me Dead,” he says. “I no dead yet!”
FIRE-ROASTED FROM SCRATCH
- On Sale
- May 3, 2011
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Running Press