“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A new dinner with Magic & Pasta in NYC, a new haircut and a new house in Italy....

Ciao a tutti!! Tutto bene?! It’s been too long! Last I posted I was exploring Florence and having the time of my life. What has happened since then? To put it more accurately, what HASN’T happened since then? I’ve gotten a haircut. I know that might not seem like a big deal to you but I have always grown my hair for years at a time, even cutting it for Locks of Love Twice. One day in Florence I looked at my hair, almost down to my shoulders and thought “it’s time for a change.” Thinking on it just one day, I marched into a saloon, translated best I could and ended up with a fabulous short, shaggy chin length bob. I figured with all of the big changes I was making in my life this just part of it. What do you think??

Next up was going back to Guardia Sanframondi. Remember I had mentioned I spent some time in a beautiful village in Campania before getting to Florence? Well, I loved it there so much, I actually cut my time in Florence short and returned to continue my journey. What did I do while I was there? Well, I made a ton of wonderful friends, ate some of the best food I’ve ever had and bought a house. Anyhow…..wait, what? A HOUSE, YOU SAY? That’s right. I BOUGHT MY VERY FIRST HOUSE IN ITALY!!!! As you can clearly see, Italy is very important to me. I am very proud of my Italian roots and have always wanted to be closer to what I feel is really my home. In fact, Guardia is just two hours from where my great-grandfather was born in Naples. I will be posting pictures and I will dedicate a whole post to the beauty of Guardia. I have never been anywhere like Guardia. It really is magical and I can’t wait to share this journey with you. Here is my new view...

I then returned to NYC and have been cooking regularly, doing private events with Magic & Pasta. Here are some of the dishes I have made for some dinners. In the order that they are shown are my "Caprese Salad" with parmigiana mousse, pesto gelatin and candied baby tomatoes, Polenta Fritti with Mushroom Onion Tapenade and Garlic Rosemary Chicken with Grilled Scallions over Parsnip Puree….

I actually am hosting one of my stylized ticketed dinners coming up on March 7th in NYC that I would love to invite you all too….”Aperitivo Italiano.” The menu will include small bites of Aperitivo Style dishes with my own twist, such as Rosemary Fried Chicken with Semolina Pancakes and Spicy Chestnut Honey and Herbed Parmigiana Polenta Bites with Speck. What to see the full menu for this delicious dinner? Then click here, you will also see ticket information. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to comment here or e-mail me at magicandpasta@hotmail.com Here are a few photos from one of my last dinners to give you an idea of the setting...

Until then my friends, I will be spending the day doing some prep in the kitchen and trying to stay warm!!! Ci vediamo!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Un Altro Day in the Life da Firenze

Another days look at my daily life here in bella Firenze. Ciao ciao per ora!
"A Day in the Life in Bella Firenze"
November 18th, 2014
Part 1- Walk by the Duomo and catch a rainbow after a morning shower. — at Piazza del Duomo.
Part 2-  Enjoy your daily cappuccino with a cornetto while people watching.
Part 3- Cross the Ponte Santa Trinita and arrive on
Via de' Tornabuoni to indulge in some window shopping.
— at Via De' Tornabuoni - Firenze.
Part 4- Eat at your favorite pizza spot, but actually try a different pizza. This baby is topped with eggplant, parm and prosciutto. — at Trattoria Pizzeria GUSTOLEO.
Part 5- Take a picture in the rain...because I like the pretty pop of color from the umbrella. — at Piazza della Signoria.
Part 6- Take cover outside at the Uffizi when the rain starts coming down and sneak a photo of the man who you can always expect to see out front....Da Vinci. — at Uffizi.

Part 7- Look out at the piazza and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. This is the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati. Yes, it's chilly and raining, but hey, they is my view!
— at Piazza della Signoria.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ciao da bella Firenze!

Ciao a tutti! I apologize for not posting for a while. Things have been very very busy. I am actually in bella Firenze for the time being and enjoying every second of it. I hosted a fabulous Halloween party with The Florentine and I have a lot of other VERY exciting things coming up. What are they, exactly? Well, if I told you that would spoil the surprise, now wouldn't it?

Want to see pictures from the party I hosted with The Florentine? Check them out right here!

In the meantime, I will be posting pictures at least once a week, but hopefully more, entitled "A Day in the Life"....photos of my what my day looks like while in Florence. I will also be heading back to Campania soon where I spent time in a beautiful medieval village before I arrived in Florence and then I'll be headed back to Rome. Tell me..what is your favorite site to see in Florence? And if you haven't been yet, what do you hope to see someday? Addio per ora!

"A Day in the Life in Bella Firenze"
November 13th, 2014

Part 1- Find a delicious cornetto filled beyond belief with nutella. Enjoyed at café in Piazza Santa Croce.
Part 2- Explore some of the beautiful museums that Florence has to offer. — at Museo del Bargello.
Part 3- Take a moment to stop and LOOK. Appreciate what is in front of you. This is Donatello's David. — at Museo del Bargello.
Part 4- Enjoy pizza that is topped with speck, ricotta, grana and stracchino. AND FINISH THE ENTIRE THING! — at Trattoria Pizzeria GUSTOLEO.
Part 5 - Catch a glimpse of a rainbow peaking through the sky as I slowly walk home in the rain without an umbrella...because I'm in Florence and I don't care about getting wet.
Part 6- Enjoy un altro cappuccino and tiramisu. Because I'm an adult and I can eat however many sweets I want!! — at Piazza del Duomo.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Olive Oil Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips & Almonds and A RECIPE CONTEST!!

Ciao a tutti! I have some really exciting news… I'm a finalist in the Eggland’s Best Your Best Recipe Contest, AGAIN!!! The last time I won my category, can you help me win again? Here’s what you have to do…

Please go to this link- http://www.egglandsbest.com/yourbestrecipe.aspx and take a look at the top of the page at the Breakfast Category. You will see my Olive Oil Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds, click on it, enter your e-mail and click vote! You will have to confirm your vote via e-mail and you can vote once a day until Oct. 31st. I have some really big plans in the near future and this money could really help me out. It would greatly appreciated, as always. Grazie mille a tutti!! Thank you so so much, here is the link again just to be safe: http://www.egglandsbest.com/yourbestrecipe.aspx

In the meantime, I’m sharing the recipe for my yummy muffins again, so if you want to make them and see what you think of them for yourself, please let me know! These are great for breakfast, an afterschool school, dessert…pretty much any time of day that you feel like having one! Buon Appetito!!

 Olive Oil Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds

3 cups of flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of almond milk (you can use regular milk, the almond milk just adds a slightly sweet almond flavor that I like)

½ cup of olive oil

½ tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. almond extract

1 cup of Dark Chocolate Chips (you can use regular chips)

1 cup of chopped almonds
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 6 muffin tin pan with non stick spray or you can use muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the milk, olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold. You do not want to over mix, that will result in a heavier muffin. Fold in the chocolate chips and almonds. Pour the batter into your muffin tins, be sure not to go all the way to the top, just a little bit below. Bake for 30 minutes or longer if needed. You can stick a tooth pick in to make sure they are set. Everyone’s oven is different so baking time may vary. When they are done, let them cool for around 15 minutes in the pan. Then after 15 minute, EAT!!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Potato Gnocchi in Sage Butter with Crispy Potato Skin Petals

Ciao a tutti!! I know it has been a while. I’ve been very busy getting ready for my upcoming time in Italy, setting up dinners, events, classes, etc. I am SO EXCITED!!!!! In fact, to say I’m excited is downplaying it. Like last year, I will be journaling a lot of my trip and will be sure to share a lot of pictures, details, recipes, menus and more with you. I look forward to another wonderful adventure.
 In the meantime, I will share with you my recipe for Potato Gnocchi in a Sage Butter Sauce with Potato Skin Petals. I got the idea for the petals because I really don’t like to waste ANY food if it can be helped. So, when I was preparing the potatoes for the gnocchi and I had all the skin left, I thought “hmmmmm, why not fry this in some butter and top the gnocchi with it?” I know, I know, I’m crazy!! Enjoy!!

Potato Gnocchi in Sage Butter with Crispy Potato Skin Petals
Potato Gnocchi

3 ½ ounce of double zero flour (if you can’t find 00 flour, you can use AP)
1 lb. potatoes
1 egg
Pinch of salt
Sage Butter
5 tbsp. butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Sage leaves, gently torn (as much or as little as you like)
Potato Skin Petals
1 tbsp. butter
Potato Skin
Put you potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, this should take around an hour.
Let the potatoes cool. Peel them and be sure to set the potato skin aside! Put the potatoes through a rice. Combine the potatoes with flour, egg and salt. Mix by hand or using a fork. Put the dough on a floured surface and divide into 4 portions. Roll each portion into a long log and cut each log into ¾ inch pieces using a flour knife. Press each piece of dough against tines of a floured fork, carefully push with a floured thumb in a forward motion toward the end of the tines and let the gnocchi fall from the fork. You can also use a gnocchi board (which I did, I also made jumbo gnocchi, which of course, you can do too!)
Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water. Fresh pasta cooks much quicker than dried, package pasta, do DO NOT OVER COOK!! The gnocchi should be tender and cooked within 3-5 minutes.
 In the meantime, while the gnocchi is boiling, prepare a medium size pan over medium heat. Add the butter, salt and pepper. Allow the butter to brown slight and add the torn sage leaves. By this point, drain the gnocchi and add to the pan with the butter sauce. Let the gnocchi sit and heat in the sauce for a few minutes so the butter leaves a nice coating on the pasta. Feel free to add a little pasta water as well, I always do. For the potato skin petals, in another small pan, heat on medium heat. Add the butter and the potato skins. I like to tear the potato skin with my hands and create little shreds. Let it fry in the butter for a few minutes until crispy. Plate the gnocchi and add the potato skin petals directly on top and of course, you must add a sprinkle of parmigiana and a glass of wine. Buon Appetito!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Baked Pasta alla Norma....Sausage, ricotta and penne, OH MY!

Day 1 of “The Box Project.” In case you missed my last post, for the next month or so I am on a mission. That is…A Box Project Mission. What’s the Box Project? Well, it’s a box of delicious treats I brought back from Italy and am always saving “for something special.” I finally decided, what am I waiting for? On top of it, I have a bad habit of food shopping too often and I hate to say it, but sometimes things unfortunately go to waste. The idea with the Box Project is to use ingredients that I already have on hand and add necessary proteins, dairy or vegetables. So…day 1.

Pasta al Forno.

Pasta al Forno is basically an Italian baked pasta dish made with a pasta, cheese and preferably meat/vegetables. Well, I had a lovely can of tomatoes that I actually got last year that the real estate agent left in our kitchen “goody bag”, (when I was in Florence, Italy, the real estate agent had a bag full of groceries, ahem, and some wine in the kitchen for our arrival). Along with the tomatoes, I also had a jar of Pesto Rosso with basil that I purchased at Conand. Conand is a supermarket chain in Italy and I swear, every time I go in there, I come out with 6 bags…and that’s on a  good day.  Also on hand was a jar of San Marzano tomato paste, penne and ricotta (yes, when I can’t make my own ricotta or get to my usual cheese guy, I have to settle for supermarket ricotta). The extras I purchased for this dish were some parmigiana, eggplant and hot sausage links. So without further adeu…

Baked Pasta alla Norma
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 pack of hot sausage links
1 large eggplant (properly prepared, see below)
2 tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
1 can of tomato paste
6 tbsp. tomato pesto
2 tbsp. fresh basil, torn (NEVER CUT BASIL!!)
1 tbsp. oregano
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 box of penne
2 cups of ricotta
½ cup of parmigiana, grated

Set a medium size pan over medium/high heat. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Uncase your sausage links (I do this simply by wetting the link and cutting the case with a knife to remove it). Tear out all of the sausage into little pieces and add in the pan. Cook for 30-45 minutes (this depends on how well you like your sausage of course). Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to cool.
Prepare your eggplant. First off, clean it. Then cut it into slices and layer them in a colander, sprinkle on some salt. Let the eggplant release some liquid. Then rinse the eggplant, squeeze it with your hands and pat it dry. I know this seems like a lot of work, but trust me, it’s worth it. I picked up this technique when I was studying cooking in Italy. Not only does it make the eggplant less bitter, but by releasing the liquid, it is easier to fry. After you have rinsed and dried the eggplant, chop it coarsely. Add to the pan that you had the sausage in. I basically used the fat that the sausage released to fry the eggplant in. Not the healthiest I know, but delicious nonetheless.
Fry the eggplant until a little golden and crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. By this point, you should have water boiling. Add your garlic to the pan and let it fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and remove all of the excess oil and fat from the pan. Put the pan back over medium heat.  Add the tomato paste and let it “toast” slightly. Add 6 tbsp. of red pesto (basically, tomato pesto), a splash of pasta water, the basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook it very briefly. Six minutes top. Strain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce, along with the sausage and eggplant. Let it cook over low heat while the tomato sauce reduces slightly. In the meantime prepare your ricotta.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, whip 2 cups of ricotta with the parmigiana. Add the fried garlic. You will want to get out a casserole dish to prepare the pasta in. Add one layer of the pasta and then add dollops of the ricotta mix. Continue doing so until filled. Put the pasta in the oven and bake for 30 minutes to one hour. Remove, let it cool and then DIG IN!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Box Project

Ciao a tutti! I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I am definitely going to get back to posting delicious recipes and photos for the summer. The truth is, there has been a lot of wonderful and exciting developments in my life and I can’t wait to share them with you all soon. In the meantime, I will be sharing wonderful and exciting recipes!

So, the other day I realized I still had my “food box” from Italy. What is my “food box”? Well, I’ll tell you. When I was in Italy last winter I brought and shipped back A TON of food products. Rice, pasta, oil, balsamic vinegar, pesto’s, sauces, taralli’s, chestnuts, special flours, candy, you name it, I bought it. I realized I hadn’t used a lot of it and that I am always “saving” it and then I finally realized, what am I saving it for? USE IT NOW! So, over the next month or so I am going to be hosting what I have deemed “The box project.” I am going to try to use a lot of these beautiful ingredients to make my meals over the next month or so. I won’t just be using my Italian ingredients. In fact, this morning I made a point of going through my kitchen cabinet and seeing what else I had on hand. Beans, zuppa di faro mix, yellow rice, quinoa, faro, etc. What I am going to do is use all of these ingredients as a base and of course, shop for fresh produce and protein. The goal here is to use what I have instead of over shopping for groceries every single week. So the lineup is……

Pizzoccheri with Artichoke Pesto, Crispy Artichokes & Lemon Meatballs

*What I have already: Pizzoccheri + Artichoke Pesto (all purchased in Italy)

*What I’ll be adding: White wine, garlic, a little cream, a little butter, lemon, artichokes + ingredients for Meatballs

Zuppa di Faro with Kale & Hot Sausage

*What I have already: Zuppa di Faro Mix, Chicken Broth (mix purchased in Italy)

*What I’ll be adding: Kale + Sausage links

Risotto with Chestnuts, Nutmeg, Dried Mushrooms & Fresh Mushrooms

*What I have already: Chestnuts, Nutmeg + Dried Mushrooms (chestnuts + nutmeg purchased in Italy)

* What I’ll be adding: Risotto + Fresh Mushrooms

Black beans, Yellow Rice + Chorizo

*What I have already: Black beans, chorizo

*What I’ll be adding: Yellow rice

Chestnut Gelato with Candied Chestnuts

*What I have already: Sweet Chestnut Spread & Chestnuts (purchased in Italy)

*What I’ll be adding: Gelato custard base

Asian Stir Fry

*What I have already: Tofu, quinoa & faro

*What I’ll be adding: Fresh vegetables + red curry paste

Pistachio Gelato

*What I have already: Pistachio liquor (purchased in Italy)

What I’ll be adding: Gelato custard base & pistachios

Nero Fondente Gelato

*What I have already: Bars of dark chocolate (purchased in Italy)

What I’ll be adding: Gelato custard base

Pasta al Forno

*What I have already: Pesto rosso, penne, canned tomatoes & ricotta (pesto & tomatoes purchased in Italy)

*What I’ll be adding: Eggplant, sausage, parmesan 

I’ll be photographing all of the ingredients before they are used and OF COURSE, photographing the final dishes! STAY TUNED!!