ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Monday, March 22, 2010

Liguria- the Home of Pesto and 2 Quick Dinners


    My mother has one brother- my Zio Franco. GianFranco is 12 years younger than my mom and was just hitting adolescence when his big sister married an American soldier and moved to "America" (say that with a beautifully rolled "R"). Franco was a very bright boy and grew up wanting to be a pilot. This love of airplanes came from his Papa. My grandfather was always fascinated with planes. When his only daughter flew away to the other side of the world, he brought his camera to the airport. In going through these old pictures, I noted that there were as many shots of the plane on the runway as there were of the people who were there to bid Maria Grazia farewell. Throughout my childhood memories of summers with my grandparents are woven wonderful memories of weekly drives my Nonno took me on to the local airfield. He loved to converse with the pilots and never failed to tell whoever he was speaking to that I was his American grand-daughter. To my Nonno, having a loved one living in America was VERY special and a source of great pride.

     One time he was stopped for speeding. Now this, in itself, is incredible. if you've ever been on the roads in Europe, you know that there really is no such thing as a speed limit. Anyway, Nonno told the policeman that HE couldn't possibly get a ticket because HE had a daughter who lived in America! I'm quite sure that was a new excuse for the officer!

I was about 3 1/2 years old in this picture with my Nonno at the airfield

   GianFranco grew up, joined the Italian Air Force and flew fighter jets. My Nonno was the proudest Papa you've ever seen.

Zio Franco circa 1965 in the Academy

These were taken October 1966

        Eventually, after leaving the Air Force, Franco became a pilot Captain with ATI which is a subsidiary of Alitalia Airlines. He met and married a stunning girl named Luciana. I remember meeting my soon-to-be Zia Luciana for the first time and being awe struck. She was a stunning, statuesque girl (could have been a model) and as sweet as could be. She was also an incredible cook. To this day, one of my aunt and uncle's favorite things to do is have a beautiful dinner in a fine restaurant, then go home and replicate it.

I am 9 years old and standing behind Zia Luciana and her first-born, my cousin GianMarco

         Some of my best dishes and techniques are the ones I learned from watching her. She was the Queen of the 10 minute dinners as she called them- she could whip up a fabulous dinner in a snap after we spent the day shopping the furniture and antique markets. (we also shared a love of interior design) <3
 Today I'm going to share 2 VERY quick, but satisfying dishes- one that can be ready in the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. The other is also quick to put together , but takes an hour in the oven. It can be made ahead and served at room temperature for a wonderful lunch or light dinner. Add a salad, some wonderful crusty bread, and a glass of wine and you'll feel like you're sitting on the terrace of an Italian villa feeling your daily stress melt away.

         Liguria is the smallest of the 13 regions of Italy and is mainly comprised of narrow strips of land between mountains and sea. This land produces the most flavorful basil, exceptional olive oil, and due to the richness of algae and strong currents, the tastiest fish. It is known as the original "home of the Pesto Sauce". Traditional Ligurian dishes are known for being very flavorful due to a blend of intense flavors. While the daily dishes tend to be simple (though flavorful), the region is also known for dishes such as "cappon magro" or thin capon. It's a laborious construction in the form of a pyramid made up of six or seven types of both fish and vegetables cooked separately and then built layer by layer on a base of crackers and covered with a rich sauce based on olive oil and anchovies. The decoration of the dish is elaborate, slices of hard-boiled eggs, medallions of lobster, large shrimp, oysters and other fruits of the sea. Sugo di Noci or walnut sauce, is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle (you need a fairly large one), but feel free to use a food processor. My only tweaks to the recipe are the addition of the roasted garlic ( because it makes my heart sing) and the use of heavy cream. The original recipe calls for soured milk, but plain yogurt can also be substituted if you want some extra tanginess. 

Sugo di Noci

1 fairly thick slice of a coarse or artisan type bread (I use my Italian bread)- soaked in a bit of milk for a few minutes
about 3/4 cup shelled walnut pieces
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 clove raw garlic, pressed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
handful of fine chopped marjoram (or basil if you don't have marjoram on hand)
1 pound of pappardelle or wide fettucine pasta

Boil a large pot of water, well salted, and throw in the pasta. Squeeze excess milk out of the bread. Combine remaining ingredients except for marjoram in mortar and pestle or processor and blend to thick, creamy paste. Drain pasta, reserving a couple of tablespoons of pasta water to add to sauce. Top pasta with sauce and marjoram and toss till coated. top with some julienned basil

Sardinian Stuffed Peppers make a lovely light lunch

I originally got this recipe years ago from an Italian cookbook that belonged to my aunt. It took me quite some time to translate the recipes I wanted and convert the measurements. I always groan when I browse online and see these same recipes with Google translate available and conversions readily available. Today's cooks are so fortunate to have this wonderful invention called "the internet" at their fingertips.
These are excellent warm or at room temperature

Sardinian Stuffed Peppers

2 1/2-3 cups fresh bread crumbs from a coarse textured bread (again, I use my homemade Italian bread)- about 3-4 good slices
1/3-1/2 cup raisins (I use currants- I prefer the smaller size and my Zia and Nonna both used currants)
about 1/3 cup  pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
3 ounce jar capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped oil cured olives- I use Kalamata
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more
salt and pepper
abot 4 large bell peppers, halved vertically, stems and seeds removed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put pepper halves, face up, in a casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Combine all remaining ingredients and mix well. Fill pepper halves and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake for 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature with more good olive oil for drizzling and some shaved Parmesan cheese. 

We will be linking up today with Marty at for Tabletop Tuesday. head on over anytime Tuesday and see what the most creative minds in Blogland are up to. Marty, thanks so much for hosting and inviting us all!

As Always,

Buon Alimento, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie


  1. ciao!!! quanti piatti favolosi! me li mangerei tutti!!

  2. Ah! Your food is amazing. I love to visit your site just to drool over the things you have made in your kitchen.

  3. Both of these recipes are amazing. Your family is so fortunate to have you recording all these wonderful memories. It would be a shame to have them lost.

  4. Sugo di noci is amazing.. I must make it. Such great memories and stories... and recipes. You must have the best family!

  5. I'm telling you, Pattie -- COOKBOOK. You write so well, and your recipes are ... well, beyond delicious looking. Love your stories, AND your food!

    I also love you "today's cooks" remark -- makes you sound like you are 107 years old! You ARE a cook of today, girl!

    And remember, daily, as a sacred ritual, you tell your daughter that Mama is always right. Because . . . she is. :-)


  6. I agree, Pattie---you need to do a cookbook! The stuffed peppers look fabulous. Even though my husband does all the cooking, I'm going to make those tomorrow night, while he's out of town,and have my sister over to eat. I'll let you know how they turn out. Not as good as yours, obviously! lol!

  7. I agree with the others.. You were born to write a cookbook and I'll be grabbing the first copy~!! amazing as always and I'll be over in about 15 minutes so keep mine warm please...

  8. Love your stories, what wonderful memories. Your recipes are just wonderful and everything looks so goooooooooood. I just drool over every dish. Thanks so much for joining the party. Hugs, Marty

  9. I love the story and the food looks wonderful. Yes! A cookbook!!

    There is a restaurant in The Hill district of St Louis. The Hill is the Italian neighborhood, where Yogi Bera and Joe Garagiola(not sure of spelling),grew up. On The Hill is an Italian restaurant. A favorite of lots of folks around St Louis and out of towners. Delicious food and great atmosphere. The name is Zia's.

  10. Pattie,
    I agree with Cass...cookbook! I love how you link the story with the food!
    10 minute have me hooked! These dishes look delicious!
    Have a wonderful week :)

  11. Hi Pattie...

    My goodness gracious, know how to cook!!!'s about dinner time and your scrumptious dishes look soooo good! I would love to try those Sardinian stuffed peppers! Thank you so much for sharing your family recipes with all of us! My friend, you have such a fabulous family history! Ohhh...and by the way, your Uncle is certainly a handsome man! Gotta love those "fly boys"! Hehe!

    Pattie, thank you so much for coming by and leaving such sweet notes on all of my posts! I have really enjoyed your visits, my friend! Thank you!!!

    Warmest wishes,
    Chari @Happy To Design

  12. Oh, let me see.....pasta, check.... cheese, check....heavy cream, need to say anymore!! LOL

    Both of these recipes look wonderful and I loved reading about your uncle and Aunt!

  13. As usual...great food AND great stories over here. Man, your Zio Franco was a "looker". Which is probably one of the reasons why your beautiful Zia Luciana fell for him.
    I scrolled down to see your beautiful "Island-scape" for St. Patty's day. SO FUN!!!
    Have a great week.

  14. Pattie & Allie - I just found your blog today. I'm so glad I did, your recipes look amazing - I can't wait to try them out!

  15. MMMMMMmmmm! Its dinner time and I wish I you were cooking for me!


  16. What delicious looking food! I love pasta, so I know I'd love this dish.

  17. Bella! Bella! Bella!

    The table looks so divine! I again love the historical information. I love the planes, and how adorable are you with the plane? Too cute! I just love it all!

  18. Oh my, what a great post! I love the stories about your family and the wonderful recipes that have been handed down to you. I agree with you about the use of currants. They add little bits of sweetness without being overpowering. Those peppers are on my "must make" list.

  19. OMG, that food looks soooo yummy. I'm gonna try your peppers!! TFS

  20. Pattie, you should do a cookbook! I love your recipes and your family stories. Thank you for sharing both with us. Hope you are having a beautiful week.

  21. The Sugo di Noci sounds fantastic and such a quick meal too. Love the addition of marjoram!

    And once again, your serving dishes are fantastic!

  22. Another fabulous story, Patti. Coming here is like opening a book.

  23. I loved reading your story and seeing those pictures.......and your recipes I can hardly wait to try. It's so nice that you are preserving all those recipes, yes you need to write a cookbook.

    Thanks for sharing. :-)

  24. j'aime beaucoup lire vos histoires et admirer vos photos, sans parler des recettes elles sont excellentes, bravo
    bonne soirée

  25. The peppers look amazing..not to mention all the great dishes.:)

    I ah

    have a recipe for these stuffed peppers and yours look better:)

  26. Yikes what happened's almost as if I was trying to have an Italian accent:)

  27. reviewsFlat-Panel TVsThe table looks so divine! I again love the historical information. I love the planes, and how adorable are you with the plane? Too cute! I just love it all!


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