Italian Girl at Heart

The other day I was cleaning, I know fun stuff, it was raining I was bored, trust me I have far better things to do with my time, but it needed my attention.  So I came across my Daddy’s favorite cookbook.  It was written by an Italian Priest who lived in Jersey City, where my parents both grew up and I lived for a very short time as a young girl.  As I scanned the pages of his beloved cookbook, all grease stained and gravy splattered, I came across his recipe for two things he made quite often, his Italian Knot cookies, and his homemade Zeppoles, nestled within the pages.  Now I had thought these recipes were gone for good, and I checked the whole house for them for the last 6 years, after her passed, including my Mom’s cherished recipe book, but to no avail.  When I found the recipes,  I started to cry and I missed my parents so much.  My Mom has been gone for over 28 years, and my Dad almost 6, and the sadness, when it comes, is so overwhelming.  So I stopped cleaning and started cooking.  Who cares about a clean house when I got Zeppoles.

That day I made my big pot of gravy as I always do, but I used the recipe that my Dad always used, I have perfected my version, which is pretty much as his is, but I wanted to keep the gravy pure.  I also made some delicious arancini, which I will tell you are pure perfection, this is my original recipe.  The first time I had arancini, or rice balls,  I was probably around 5, and my Grandma had served them, they had peas and prosciutto in them, which were amazing and is very traditional, and you will find included in most recipes, and some regions of Italy will add salami in place of the Proscutt, but I love keeping it simple and adding just pecorino romano cheese, fresh mozzarella and fresh parsley.  It’s really all you need.  But feel free to make them any way you desire.  As, I have even had them at Italian restaurants with chop meat and peas, which I personally do not care for.  I also tried to remember the way my Dad made these delicious Spinach and Ricotta dumplings.  He began making them when he took over cooking duties after my Mom passed away, but he never wrote the recipe down.  I made my own version which is probably very similar to what he used, and they were absolutely perfection.  A nice addition to a Sunday family supper, light lunch, or as a meal like I used them as.  It was a nice break from pasta and meat and just as delicious.    I hope you try these recipes as a homage to my Daddy, and our family.  I know your family will enjoy them as much as mine does!   Amore dalla mia cucina a casa tua.   (Love from my kitchen, to yours!)


Susan xoxo


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Sinfully Simple Arancini    Credit:


Sinfully Simple Arancini

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simplified version of an Italian classic

  • Take advantage of this shortcut for making perfect aborio rice. If I was making risotto I would not use this shortcut but for the rice balls it’s fool-proof and a time saver.
  • Credit: Mangieri-Maurath


  • 1 cup of Aborio rice as used for risotto
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 pinch of saffron added to stock (not necessary becasue saffron is expensive, but I love the rich yellow color and depth of flavor it imparts)
  • 3/4 of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 egg well beaten
  • 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs and more for dusting the arancini if needed
  • Appx. 1/2 cup of the tiny fresh mozzarella pearls or fresh mozzarella cubed and stuck in the center of each rice ball.
  • 2 tbsp. of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 minced clove of garlic
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste


  1. In a large saucepan add 2 cups of chicken broth along with the saffron, and bring to boil over medium heat.  When boiling add rice and lower to simmer.  Cover and let simmer 20 min. or until all liquid is absorbed.  Remove from stove fluff with fork and allow to cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine slightly cooled arancini, cheeses, garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, and kosher salt and pepper.  * Caution when adding salt to this mixture as my last batch of grated pecorino romano cheese, which I grated from a wedge of Peccarino Romano, was extremely salty and I barely needed salt in most dishes.  Taste mixture before adding egg.  ****Always taste your food when you cook! Always!!
  3. Add beaten egg and combine well.
  4. Begin to from balls, if you are using cubed fresh mozzarella, add a cube to the center before dusting with bread crumbs.  I like to dust the arancini in a separate bowl of bread crumbs to ensure they will stay firm while frying.
  5. Refrigerate the arancini for at least an hour or overnight.
  6. Heat a large frying pan on medium high heat, add oil, begin by adding a few arancini at a time.  Do not overcrowd pan.  Turn to brown evenly, do not over brown you want a light golden color.  Serve immediately with mariana sauce or they can be eaten at room temperature.  They can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days and can be reheated at a 375 degree oven for about 15 min. until heated through.  Mangia!!


Poppy's Sunday Gravy

  • Servings: 7-9
  • Difficulty: easy
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My Daddy's homemade gravy!

  • The controversy over gravy and sauce is one I refuse to debate because we always referred to it as gravy and I will refer to it as such until my last breath and even than I will convince the angels it is gravy.  What? It could happen! I may wind up in heaven who knows!
  • Credit: Mangieri-Maurath


  • 3 Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes with basil leaf
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of each (basil, Italian seasoning, parsley, and oregano)
  • 2 tbsp. of butter to finish sauce off
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste



  1. Heat a large stock pot on medium high heat.  Add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil.  Add onion and garlic saute until translucent, do not overcook the garlic, if it burns toss out and start over.
  2. Add herbs to onion and garlic, then add tomato paste, mix well, add sugar, and fill up the tomato paste can halfway with tap water and add to the paste mixture simmer one more minute, then add the fresh tomatoes, simmer two minutes, then add the whole tomatoes, making sure to crush by hand each tomato.  Add crushed tomatoes and turn heat to simmer, stirring occasionally.  You can add meatballs, sausage or braciole at this point if you are making. Simmer at least an hour.  Then add butter.  ** My Dad never added butter to his gravy, he also kept what I call a rustic sauce with some tomatoes chunks.  I prefer to add butter to make it a richer gravy and I do use an emulsion blender some times to make a smoother sauce, but I adore it both ways. Pictured above I did not use an emulsion blender.
  3. Serve gravy over pasta, polenta, or with spinach and ricotta dumplings, and arancini. Mangia.



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Sexy Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings   Credit:


Sexy Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

  • Servings: 5-7
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A hearty, but light change from pasta and meat!

  • This is my version of the dish my Daddy made.  I’m sure he would approve!
  • Credit: Mangieri-Maurath


  • 1 cup of chopped fresh spinach.  You can use 10 oz. of frozen thawed as my Daddy did.  I had fresh so that’s what I used.  Microwave for a few minutes, then  finely chop and drain.  Set aside.
  • 6 oz. of whole milk ricotta drained well.  You can subsitute cottage cheese just drain well.
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup of flour, more for dusting
  • Kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste



  1. In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients mixing well to incorporate.
  2. In a separate bowl add a little bit of flour to lightly dust the dumplings
  3. Form dumplings into small balls, then dust lightly with flour and put aside on plate.  You can make these larger but the cook uniformly if smaller.  The dough will be wet, but just add flour to make them stay together while boiling.  Place in refrigerator to firm up for at least an hour.
  4. In a large stock pot bring water to boil.
  5. When water is at a rolling boil, add salt to water, then turn down heat to a gentle boil,  If you boil like a pasta you will break up the dumplings.  You just want to gently cook for about 5 minutes or so, until dumplings rise to surface like a gnocchi or tortellini.  Drain with a slotted spoon or a spider and serve with fresh gravy or your favorite mariana sauce.  Top with freshly grated cheese and devour!



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