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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guest Post from Webicurean- Homemade Limoncino

Ciao a tutti!! I am very excited to share with you my guest post from Anne Papina of Webicurean. You can view the original post on her site here and be sure to drop by her facebook page and return the love. Enjoy!!  

A few weeks back, my cousin Mary Ann dropped off a large bag of lemons from her tree, and here’s how I began…

If you aren’t lucky enough to have homegrown lemons landing on your doorstep, stop by the local farmers’ market and pick up about a dozen. The lemons should be organic, not because it’s trendy, but because supermarket lemons may contain wax and pesticides on the skin. Since we’re only using the skin, this is very important.  Give them a good scrub before you begin.

The lemons are simply gorgeous, which may compel you to take a few artistic snaps, like my honey did below. Can you see him in the picture? 

How cute is that? Now, back to the recipe.

Carefully peel the lemons so that you have just the skin. The white pith will make the limoncello bitter, so scrape any remaining pith off the peel with a sharp knife.

Add the peels and the alcohol (I used Everclear 151) to a glass jar and seal tightly. Since I used a glass pitcher, the top was wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.

Let this steep for at least 45-50 days. At the end of this time, most of the color will have transferred from the peels to the alcohol. This is a good thing.

While you’re waiting, enjoy your vacation pictures.

See how time flies? Now that we’re 45 days into the future, let’s make the simple syrup.

Bring the water to a boil, then stir in the sugar until dissolved–about 10 minutes. See. Simple. Syrup. Let this cool completely.

Meanwhile, strain the alcohol/lemon mixture into another container. I used a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter–this is to get rid of the peels as well as any other debris that may be in there from the lemons.

What remains is a dazzling golden liquid.

Stir in the simple syrup, then pour into bottles for storage.

The final result should be exquisitely golden, slightly cloudy, and very fragrant.  Some say at this point it should be stored another 10 days or so to mellow out. That’s up to you. We drank it that night after chilling, and it was truly fantastic.  Limoncello tastes best when stored in the freezer.

Homemade Limoncino (Limoncello)

Bright and fragrant, this lemon liqueur makes good use of the lemons in your backyard.
Author: Anne Papina
Recipe type: Beverage
Cuisine: Italian
·         10-12 organic lemons
·         1 (750-ml) bottle grain alcohol (such as Everclear)
·         3½ cups water
·         2½ cups sugar

1.      Wash lemons, and carefully peel in long strips. Scrape away any pith on the peels.
2.      Place the peels in a glass jar or pitcher, cover with the alcohol and seal closed. (I used plastic wrap since no lid was available.)
3.      Let this steep for 45-50 days.
4.      To make the simple syrup, bring the water to a boil in a large pan.
5.      Add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. This should take about 10 minutes. Cool completely.
6.      Strain the alcohol mixture into a clean bowl or pitcher. A mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter will suffice.
7.      Stir in simple syrup, and bottle for storage.
For optimal enjoyment, store limoncello in the freezer. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Ciao a tutti!! My mother and I will be in vacationing in Italy for the next month, I was first there over the summer of 2011 and I am so grateful and excited to be returning. I will not really be posting while I am away, but not to worry, I promise to leave you in good hands!! I will be having wonderful guest posts from Noshing with the Nolands, Oh Cake, Strands of My Life, Webicurean and more!! When I return I will be sharing so much from my trip, including journals of my travels in Rome and Florence, restaurant reviews, mouthwatering photos, interviews with chefs and videos!! Below, you will find a journal entry that I wrote on my first day in Rome. 

June 27th, 2011: The Colosseum

Mom and I were in a cab coming from the airport. We were driving on a pretty standard highway and then we turned into a more commercial looking area and saw it. The Colosseum. It was such an amazing moment. I could not believe it. The Colosseum is something I have seen in photos and movies and was never 100% sure I would see it for myself. I could not stop smiling. I couldn't believe I was seeing the Colosseum. Mom and I were just smiling at each other. After we checked into the hotel, we decided to do a little browsing. We had lunch at a little restaurant and sat inside, but by the big open windows. Afterward, we just started walking just to get an idea of where we were. Suddenly, without knowing what direction to go in, mom turned around and said “Is that the Colosseum?” And sure enough, just a couple of blocks ahead, was The Colosseum again, this time we weren't in a cab though, so we could see it fully. It is such an incredible site, I can’t even describe it. It is like nothing I have ever seen. Furthermore, mom and I spoke about what it was used for, and to this day I still cannot believe that this was used for gladiators to fight for sport like animals. We then went up to a little bridge area and just stared at it for a while.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Butternut Squash Fritters

Butternut Squash Fritters. Do I have your attention now? I thought so. I really look for any excuse to turn anything into a fritter. I’m not even kidding. I know fried food may not be the healthiest, but let’s face it, it tastes delicious. I want to make it clear that I don’t eat fried food terribly often, but when I do, I want it to be something really good. Enter my Butternut Squash Fritters.

These are so good and they are a nice change from the usual vegetable fritters made with broccoli or cauliflower. For one thing, butternut squash lends itself so well to sage, rosemary and thyme that it just seemed like the right thing to do. Imagine making a savory butternut squash pancake, that’s what these are, except that these are fried, so while they are definitely similar to a pancake, they are really crispy. These also have parmigiana cheese which just makes them even more amazing. 

I love the idea of serving fun appetizers for Thanksgiving that are a little different and I think these would do just perfectly. You might also like to try my Pumpkin Gnocchi or if you’re serving a soup, perhaps a bowl of my Pumpkin Sausage Stew. These are also great for a low carb, paleo or gluten free diet. I always love when you guys leave comments, so please let me know what you think!!

Butternut Squash Fritters

1 ½ cups of pureed butternut squash
2 eggs
½ cup coconut flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
¾ cup of parmigiana
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1 cup of neutral oil for frying

In a medium size bowl, combine butternut squash and eggs. In another bowl, combine coconut flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper. Mix into butternut squash mix. Add parmigiana, sage, rosemary and thyme. These will be pretty moist, but don’t be startled, they will stay together and fry perfectly!!

Prepare a deep pot over high heat and add your oil. Once it is hot enough, form into balls, 2 tablespoons full and put in the oil. You may want to flatten them a little once they are in the oil as I did or you can keep them as they are!! Fry each side for around 3 minutes. Once they are all done, put on a wire rack so any excess oil drips off. Buon Appetito!! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chef Chat: Joe Campanale of dell'anima, L'Artusi, L'Apicio and Anfora

Ciao a tutti!! I am very excited to share with you my interview with Joe Campanale, co-owner and beverage director of dell’anima, L’Artusi, L'Apicio and Anofra, all in New York City. He has been featured on several 30 under 30 lists including Forbes, Restaurant Hospitality and Zagat and has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart, so I feel very lucky to have had the chance to ask him a few questions. Hope you all enjoy!!

One of many tempting dishes from L'Apicio. Photo by Michael Morales 

What got you interested in the restaurant and wine business?

It was while studying abroad in Madrid that I first seriously became interested in wine. I loved how they treated it as an essential part of any meal (like salt and pepper or bread on the table) and how it brought people together around the table. I also visited a few vineyards and became fascinated with the agricultural aspect and how wine is such a great interpreter of the place it comes from. 

Do you have a favorite dish from each of your restaurants?

I love Gabe's pastas very much. He really has a way with fresh, homemade pasta; I've never had anything so good. 

Do you have a signature dish that you like to prepare for yourself at home?

Yet another delicious dish from L'Apicio. Photo by Michael Morales. 

I make eggs with my girlfriend almost every morning. We always try to mix it up, which is a fun challenge.

What advice would you give to aspiring restaurant owners?

Owning a restaurant isn't a job, it’s a lifestyle choice. There is always something going on in the restaurants. Also as an owner, the best thing you can do is to empower your managers, you employees. Because you're not going to be talking to every single guest, making every single dish, but they are, so make them happy and you'll have happy guests. 

You’re incredibly young and have already had an enormous amount of success with your restaurants. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I love what I'm doing so much, hopefully in 10 years I get to continue what I'm doing! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Giveaway- "A Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving"

Ciao a tutti!! Happy pre-Thanksgiving week!! While I normally post all things Italian, this week is Thanksgiving so I will be making an exception…starting with my first official giveaway!!

I will be giving away three eBook copies of “A Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving” written by Brianna Hobbs of Flippin Delicious and her mother and sister, Janet Fackrell and Autumn Fackrell. I bet your first question is; what is paleo exactly? Well, I’ll tell you. Also referred to as the caveman diet, a paleo diet is a high fat, low/no carb diet that eliminates dairy, sugars, legumes, and grains.

I’m sure during the holidays, a diet is probably the last thing on your mind, but “A Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving” makes it easy to forget that you are on a diet. While I do not follow a paleo diet 100% of the time, I have prepared many delicious paleo recipes and let me you, this is no regular “diet” food! In “A Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving you will find wonderful recipes like Creamy Green Bean Casserole with Bacon and “Fried” Onions, Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Butternut, Apple and Sage “Stuffing,” Crust-less Pecan Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake and so many more mouth-watering recipes!! Any of these dishes will make a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving table!

So, enter the giveaway and you’ll have a chance to win one of three eBook copies of “A Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving,” all you have to do is "like" Flippin Delicious on facebook, "like" thje Paleo 30 Day Challenge on facebook, sign up for the Paleo 30 Day Challenge e-mail and "like" La Cucina Prima Donna on facebook. And in case you still haven’t decided if paleo is right for you….here are some mouthwatering photos to change your mind. 

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Coconut Cream Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 12, 2012

Exciting News: Eggland's Best "Your Best Recipe Contest" Category Winner!!

Ciao a tutti!! I would like to officially announce that I won the dessert category for Eggland’s Best “Your Best Recipe Contest” for my Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso Cookies. You can view the announcement here: http://egglandsbest.com/yourbestrecipe.aspx and take a look at my prize winning recipe here: http://egglandsbest.com/recipes/book/c/cookies-chocolate-hazelnut-espresso.aspx. I want to thank all of you that voted, as always, your support is greatly appreciated!! Buon Appetito!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Glicco's Pasta Gravy

Ciao a tutti!! I was recently asked to review “Glicco’s Pasta Gravy.” Right off, when I saw that they referred to their sauce as gravy, I knew this was a very good start. You see, many Italians do not call tomato sauce, sauce; they call it gravy, as does my family, so I felt I was in good company.

At first, I was a little nervous to be perfectly honest. I admit to preparing my sauces 99% of the time, the other 1% is usually when I am very tired or I just need to make something fast!! But, I do know that delicious prepared gravy’s DO exist, since those are the ones that I purchase!!

Glicco’s Pasta Gravy is made by Elbow Foods, founded by Kim and Derek Glicco. On the back of the jar, there is a wonderful story about the inspiration behind the gravy. Derek shares memories of his grandmother spending hours cooking in the kitchen and when she was finished, family and friends loved to sit down at her table and have a taste. The recipe for the gravy dates back four generations and is completely natural. The only ingredients listed are tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, onions, peppers, garlic, spices, water, honey and salt. Notice something interesting here? You can pronounce all the words and there is no corn syrup!!

I could not believe how fresh the sauce tasted, I’m not even kidding. You would never guess that this came out of a jar, that’s how good it was! It was thick and rich, not at all weak and watered down like many jarred sauces. I served it on ravioli; I wanted the sauce to stand out on its own without any meat or add-ons, just good old fashioned gravy over pasta. It was slightly chunky and you could really taste the herbs. The touch of honey gave it a perfect natural sweetness which balances with the tomatoes very nicely. It was so delicious; I’m planning on serving the rest with gnocchi tomorrow night!! For more information about Glicco’s Pasta Gravy, be sure to take a look at their site, http://elbowfoods.com/ and be sure to head over to their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ElbowFoods and tell them that La Cucina Prima Donna sent ya!! Buon Appetito!! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Is there anything more comforting then a big bowl of meatballs covered in delicious gravy? I think not. For me, one of my favorite go to meals is spaghetti and meatballs, I know it’s very simple, but that’s why I love it so much.

Meatballs are pretty much exactly what they sound like. Balls of meat. Okay, okay, it’s a little more complex than that. They are made from ground meat, usually with some sort of bread crumbs or flour, egg and spices. Even though most people initially think Italian when they think of meatballs, something that I have always loved is that every culture has their own take on this classic delicious treat. 

Chinese meatballs are sometimes made with pork and steamed, in Germany, there are a famous version of meatballs called Konigsberger Klopse which contain anchovy or salted herring and when we think of Swedish food, you are automatically think of the Swedish Meatball covered in all of that delightful cream sauce. There are many other takes on the meatball, but if I told you all of them, well, then I could never get to my own, which is obviously Italian. Another fun little piece of information is that the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius, contained many meatball type recipes. This meatball is a classic family recipe from my mother, but I have altered it to make it gluten free.

These are just delicious. I hate a very soft meatball, but I also hate a hard one, these are a perfect combination. Not too hard, not too soft. Goldilocks would love them!! (you get it, right?) I make them in my favorite classic tomato sauce that I have posted before, you just can’t go wrong. Many meatballs are made with a combination of pork, beef or veal, but I prefer to keep mine strictly beef.  Enjoy!!

Gluten Free Meatballs

1 ½ pounds of ground beef
½ cup of grated parmigiana
1 egg
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ cup of almond flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beef, parmigiana, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, red pepper and almond flour until thoroughly mixed. I like to use my hands, it just works best.

Line a baking sheet with oiled tin foil or parchment paper and shape your meatballs. Make them whatever you size you like and line them up on your pan. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until nice and golden. Serve with my classic signature tomato gravy.

Classic Tomato Gravy

6 cloves of garlic (or as much as you like)
15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Basil (finely chopped)
Crushed Italian herbs

Coarsely chop your garlic and add to a small pot over medium heat, cook until soft. Add tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and crush Italian herbs. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve yourself some meatballs and a large ladle full of tomato gravy directly over them. Buon Appetito!! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Potatoes with Pancetta and Italian Seasoned Chicken Cutlet with Ariosto Seasings

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the events of the past week. I have lived in New York City since I was born and seeing Hurricane Sandy cause such permanent emotional and physical damage is heat-breaking. My family and I were very lucky, but unfortunately many were not. There is still so much to be done, so I am taking this opportunity to ask you to please donate to The Red Cross, every amount helps. Even just $5 will go a long way in the recovery. Thank you very much.

One of my favorite memories of being in Ischia was looking in the gourmet shops in town. They had beautiful oils, vinegars, cookies, pasta, crackers and herb kits; it was a foodie’s heaven. My mother and I were staying in a hotel without a kitchen in our room, so unfortunately there was a limit to what we could work with. For some reason, I especially loved all of the packets of fresh herbs. Once, we actually did buy a pack for tomatoes and made a fresh tomato and cannellini salad in the room!! So, you can imagine how excited I was to receive some samples of Ariosto seasonings, straight from Italy!!

Ariosto has been around for more than 50 years and has a wide variety of seasoning products. They are completely natural, free of flavor enhancers and food coloring, the only ingredients are sea salt from Sicily and Italian herbs. I received seasonings for meat and chicken, tomatoes, fish, potatoes and risotto. The question now is, what to make?!?! 

Well, I decided I was in the mood for a classic chicken and potatoes kind of meal, but a little more interesting than just that. I decided to make a potato, onion and pancetta bake using the potato seasonings which ingredients included sea salt, garlic, rosemary, sage, juniper, basil, marjoram, oregano, bay leaf, coriander, parsley and herbs. For the entrĂ©e, I made a seasoned fried chicken cutlet using the meat seasonings which have salt, rosemary, garlic, sage, juniper, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil and herbs. As you can see, you can understand all of these ingredients!! No words that you can’t pronounce. Furthermore, all of these spices are my favorites and I look for any excuse to cook with them.

They were very easy to use and as soon I opened the packets, the smell of the herbs brought me right back to Ischia.  As soon as my food had started cooking, it enhanced the herbs and the kitchen smelled amazing. The scents of rosemary, garlic, sage and basil danced in my kitchen. When I finally got around to eating everything, I could not believe how everything tasted. It really was a perfect meal. The potatoes were so well seasoned, the bake was crunchy on the top but soft on the inside and the pancetta added a wonderful smokiness to the herbs. The chicken was so moist and flavorful; the herbs just made everything come together perfectly. Luckily, Ariosto Seasonings are available in New York and if you are interested, you can take a look here and please be sure to check out their facebook page. If you have ever used these seasonings, please comment and let me know what you think. Until next time miei amici!! Buon Appetito!!

Potato Bake with Onions and Pancetta

2-3 slices of pancetta, chopped (if you can’t find pancetta, bacon will be fine)
1 large onion, sliced paper thin
8 small-medium size red skinned or Yukon gold potatoes, sliced paper thin
3 tbsp. cup olive oil
Salt + Pepper (to taste)
½ pack Ariosto potato seasonings

Brown the pancetta in a pan till slightly crisp. Add the sliced onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook slowly till soft. In a small bowl, put ½ a packet of Ariosto mix, olive oil and blend. Slice potatoes paper thin (I use a Japanese slicer, they are easy to find at specialty shops or a mandolin)

Using a small casserole or baking dish, brush lightly with the spice/oil mix. Starting with a layer of potatoes, next pancetta/onion mix, continue alternating layers and end with a layer of potatoes. Lightly brush the top with the spice mix and sprinkle coarse salt on the top, bake very slowly in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes (depending on the thickness of your casserole). Test by piercing with a thin knife, if it goes through smoothly, it’s done!! You can increase or decrease any of these ingredients to fit any size baking dish, large or small, just adjust your cooking time and test with a thin knife. Enjoy!

Seasoned Chicken Cutlet

¼ cup olive oil
1 packet Ariosto meat seasonings
4 chicken cutlets
¾ cup chickpea flour
Neutral Oil for frying

Blend olive oil and ½ packet of herbs (or to taste.) Marinate chicken in herbed olive oil for at least an hour (more if you can or want.) Blend flour, remaining herb mix, salt and pepper. Pat chicken lightly to take off some of the oil, coat in the herbed flour mix, let sit a few minutes for the flour to adhere. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and fry chicken until golden on each side, roughly 2-3 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your chicken. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly. I served the chicken with a pesto aioli, the potatoes and a light green salad!! Buon Appetito!!