rosa mariotti

Growing up Italian: I “Pasta” like my Grandma


Giuseppa was her name. My grandmother on my dad’s side was a vertically challenged (barely 5 ft tall) feisty and sweet lady.

Camera shy, Nonna has taken very few pictures.

Giuseppa was totally the opposite of my Grandma on my mother’s side.

See my other blog

Nonna Peppa, like we confidentially called her, wasn’t into fancy clothes or shoes. She never wore make up. I can’t remember a day when her hair had any other color other than the one of a cloud on a sunny day: a pristine white with hues of light baby blue.

Her hands were weathered by years of hard manual labor. As a young child, she had to wash clothes in the dead of winter at the public “lavatoio” or wash house.


This meant that she had to break the ice sheet first, with her little fist. She then grew and had 3 children, a husband and a farm to tend.

Self advancement was not a word she knew. She was brave, resilient and compassionate, but she could barely write. Peppa spent her life raising 3 children and running the household.

Nonna Peppa was the quintessential Domestic Diva. Untouched by any glamour, grounded like any matriarch.


I didn’t get to spend much time with Nonna since she was always busy running a small feed store. However, holiday time was when our family gathered around her kitchen table in front of a huge fireplace. The Caminetto (fireplace) was the size of a walk in closet. One step up from the rest of the living room, with two wooden benches, one on each side of the fire pit. The walls around it were pitch black from years of wood burning. I did spend countless hours staring at the fire. Hypnotized by the flickering of the flame and inebriated by the smell of it.

Fireplace similar to the one at Nonna’s

What I remember about Nonna Peppa’s cooking is its frugality. Simple dishes that didn’ t lack in taste though. She also wasn’t taking no as an answer. No fussing, no being picky or finicky. Lamb’s brains or cows tong were just food. Delicious, as I remember it.

I grew up eating anything that was placed in front of me. I developed both an appreciation for food and a curiosity for cooking.

Nonna forte’ was pasta: homemade noodles, that is. I believe that I learned most of my kitchen frugality from her. By osmosis, almost..watching her and eating her delicious creations. Simplicity, after all, is the ultimate sophistication.


Today, I would have made Nonna Peppa proud. I made Spinach pasta dough with Quail eggs, shaped it two ways, and prepared a simple sauce to go with it. Can’t wait for leftovers!

Here’s how to stretch a batch of pasta, Nonna’s way.

[gn_box title=”SPINACH PASTA DOUGH makes enough for 4″ color=”#0A3″]
DSCF6706 Tacconi or Quadrucci (Square) are the pasta shape I use in soups.


200 gr flour ( more if needed)

2 lg eggs (or 12 quail eggs)

a pinch of salt

1/4 C wilted spinach, drained and chopped

Elbow Grease :)


Make a well with the flour and crack the eggs inside it.

DSCF6692 Quail eggs: get crackin’!

With a fork, start breaking and beating the eggs, keeping them inside the well, add the salt.

11080945_10203597601436113_1159515510680398071_n Incorporate the flour as you go.

Now add the Spinach (wilted and minced)

DSCF6694 Things get messy!

Now it’s “Elbow grease” time. Add all the flour to the egg mixture and create a paste.

Keep kneading for 10 to 15 minutes~adding flour~ until the dough is smooth, not sticky and smells like fresh pasta dough.

DSCF6697 Here it is, the dough.

Cover the dough and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Then, if you are using a pasta machine, roll out the dough to a medium setting (#5 on an Atlas machine).

Then trim the strips of pasta into rectangles, trying to waste as little dough as possible.

KEEP THE TRIMMINGS ~ this kind of pasta is called MALTAGLIATI

DSCF6712 these “scraps” of dough are great as pasta in a simple sauce.

Now proceed to cut the large rectangles into squares of about 1″ in diameter.

DSCF6701 Tacconi

So, we got two different pasta shapes with the same dough!

You can dry the Tacconi, but we can eat the Maltagliati right away.



4 Tbs of butter~Unsalted

Fresh Sage to taste (I used about 10 leaves)


Place the butter in a large pan (eventually you will have to toss the pasta in there, so plan accordingly on the size) and add the sage leaves.


Constantly stirring, brown the butter until it’s honey color.


Remove from heat.

Cook the pasta al dente and strain it. Toss the pasta into the butter and sage to coat.


Garnish with grated cheese.

Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!

Growing up Italian: The taste of Memories


My Paternal Grandfather (Nonno) Alfredo was an extremely talented man. A visionary, an entrepreneur, a leader. A little too far ahead for his own times, industrious, frugal and lover of all~things~perfect.

Born at the very beginning of the century, he died in his 80s having survived two wars, the hardship that went with those, and having seen the economic boom in Italy after WWII. It is, infact, during the ’60s that he started a company in which he was actively involved well after my father took over and Nonno was “technically” retired.

He loved the people, things, and ideas in his life deeply in a non~pompous kind of way. He had strong passions, and amazing hobbies like making Violins!

Nonno was a skilled Violin Maker: Maestro Liutaio.
Nonno with Uto Ughi, famous Italian violinist and Conductor. Uto was a fan of Nonno’s Violins.


He lived his life in a meaningful way, fostering life-long friendships, and valuing his family circle. He was a busy man, even after my grandmother died well into their 60 years of marriage.

Nonno ate healthy, made his own wine, raised his own chickens, and grew his own garden. He taught me how to pick wild herbs, like Pimpinella (Burnet) which is super delicious in salads. A few years back I planted Pimpinella in my garden here in Oregon,to add a splash of cucumber~like taste to my salad, and some pleasure from my childhood sense memories.

Pimpinella. It grows everywhere!

We would pick Dandelion Greens and Wild Chicory (Cicoria selvatica or Dente di Leone or Tarassaco). He would make  infusions, I liked it wilted with bread. Now, I use Dandelion flowers to enhance the look of my salads…see!? Told you my Nonno was ahead of his time!

Wild Chicory and Dandelions. More than just pretty wild flowers

From him I learned to accept some things as simply “facts of life”: Life, death, work.

Some other things, he said, we can control, and we can put our two cents in: what we eat, what we do, how we spend our time.

My Nonno rode his bicycle everywhere. He was a very tall distinguished gentleman, who wore a Fedora hat every day of the year. He wore different hats throughout the year: A lighter one for summer, or a woolen winter version. He always wore a long sleeve shirt and a jacket, with shiny leather shoes.

When he rode the bike in winter his attire would see the addition of a cashmere vest,under which he layered a few sheets of newspaper so he would “keep the cold out”. I love that.

He suffered from  kidney stones and he would spend a week every year at the “TERME di Fiuggi” near Rome, known in Italy for its history and various healing properties.

Nonno Alfredo seemed to be living unperturbed. He wasn’t as generous with compliments as he he was with criticisms. He didn’t dispense laughter, or physical affection. His presents were meant to impact one’s life in the long run like a savings account in which my sister and I could put our “birthday money” and save it for College, or ~his best gift ever~ his knowledge.

Being a little child and copiously learning life skills from him, in retrospect, was the greatest legacy a grandparent could have left behind, he left to me, a gift that keeps giving, and I hope never to end.  From Nonno Alfredo I inherited my love for Espresso, for anything homemade, for good wine, cats, tomatoes, pasta and a sweet tooth.

Spring time was special for me and Nonno. He would know when to plant the seeds, and transplant the tomatoes in the garden. He would know that the fragile new plants would fear the early summer chilly nights. So, Alfredo would ride his bicycle  back to the garden in the evening and cover each plant with a bucket, and ride back in the morning to uncover them.

With Nonno I had the best tomatoes of my life. Ripe and warm from the sun. Sweet like a carefree day.  There is not a summer that goes by that I don’t think of him, his long tapered fingers showing my the fruits, and …the buckets.

His “Cuore di Bue” or Oxheart type tomatoes were juicy, meaty, creamy and sweet.

They were the best just rubbed onto a day~old bread slice, with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt.

Pane “Strusciato” with fresh tomatos, a drizzle of EVOO, balsamic reduction, sea salt and fresh Oregano from the garden.

Great memories, to me, taste like Tomatoes and grapes. A culinary syllogism if you wish.

For as much as Nonno loved tomatoes, he did enjoy a good glass of homemade wine at every meal. “Bevi vino campi cent’anni” he used to say:  “Drink wine and you’ll live to 100”

Spaghetti was his favorite, second only to my Grandmother’s homemade noodles. As a child I did enjoy the occasional sip of wine, here and there. I distinctly remember the sharp flavor of the UVA CORNICELLA ( the variety of grapes called Cornicella) or Table grapes, Uva da tavola that we had growing everywhere, seemed like, around the house.

1967, My Godfather Gabriele is holding me in the backyard. You can see the vines to the left and just behind me. Uva Cornicella!


Uva Cornicella
Golden green in color, large, juicy, crunchy…super delicious eaten right off the wine in a hot summer day.

The vines are long gone, leaving more room for a car port with far less maintenance.

Me, in 1989 walking under the pergola of grape leaves in the backyard.

The memories, though, are still alive. Leaving behind a sense of nostalgia for that girl who was happily raised on espresso and wine and who  now is  a middle aged woman with a superb appreciation for both.

So, even if my Nonno would not have waisted some good  housemade “vino da tavola” (table wine) on a pasta sauce, I do!

It tastes rich, delicious, unique. It tastes like the backyard of my childhood, my Nonno’s cellar at the end of summer, and my Grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday.

[gn_box title=”PASTA AL VINO ~ DRUNKEN PASTA” color=”#D03″]DSCF6612 This is how memories taste to me, these days.

Serves 4


  • 1lb of Spaghetti like DeCecco
  • 4 to 5 Cups of good Red wine (or white)
  • 6 T EVOO
  • 3 cloves of galic, minced
  • 3/4 C diced Pancetta
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes~optional
  • Finely chopped Parsley and Grated Pecorino Cheese to garnish.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta for 3 to 4 minutes ONLY!

While pasta is cooking, add the wine to a second large pot, and bring it to a boil.

Drain the pasta well, adn add it to the pot with red wine and continue to cook and additional 6 to 7 minutes, or until the pasta il “al dente”.


While the pasta is cooking in wine, in a frying pan, heat the oil and cook the pancetta to crisp. Add the garlic, stir well and remove from heat. It should be very fragrant.

Season with chili peppers if desired.

Drain the pasta once more of whatever wine is left (most will be absorbed by the pasta, though) add the pasta to the pancetta and oil. Toss well to coat for about 1 minute.

Garnish with Parsley and Cheese. Serve immediately.

Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!


For more of my recipes do not forget to check my previous posts on EDN here:

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Ricotta Citrus Pancakes and Orange Rosemary Marmalade


A breakfast so good, I could eat it all day long :)

A plethora of citruses

Blood Oranges..ohh how much I love them! It’s pretty much the only citrus I purchase this time of the year. With their bright ruby red color palette, they bring a ray of cheerfulness among the darker winter months.

I had a bowl of fruit that didn’t get used in a timely fashion, so I made Marmalade! It is delicious, rich, fresh and mostly, something that has a myriad of applications.

I would use this Marmalade on Salmon, Pork, and of course…..Pancakes!

So, here we go, Breakfast never tasted this good.
[gm_box title=”Whole Wheat Ricotta Pancakes~ NO Sugar, NO butter~ with Citrus Rosemary Marmalade” color=”#AA0″]
(Marmalade recipe adapted from the Herbfarm cookbook)


For the MARMALADE you need to start A DAY BEFORE.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 3 quarts)

  • 2.5 lb Oranges (I used blood oranges)
  • 2 large Meyer lemons (I used a regular lemon and a tangerine)
  • 6 C cold water
  • 6 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C Coconut sugar
  • 1 C Demerara sugar
  • 6 (6in) sprigs of fresh Rosemary
  • 2 star anise


Wash and wrap the rosemary in a cheesecloth. Close tightly with twine.


Wash oranges and lemons. Slice in half vertically, place cut side down, then slice into thin slices.

I instead cut them into chunks because I wanted larger pieces, personal preference, I guess.


Place citruses in a large pot and cover with the water. Let soak at room temperature for up to 24 hours. This releases the pectin and softens the rind.

The next day, bring the pot to a boil and boil for 30 minutes. Stir in the sugars, star anise, and the rosemary bundle and cook on low heat, stirring often, until the Marmalade has gelled, about 2 hours.

DSCF6335 DSCF6346

Remove rosemary bundle from the marmalade.  Store in clean jars, refrigerated OR can it.

Now, it’s pancakes time!!

PANCAKES RECIPE (makes about a dozen)


  • 1 C plus 2 T Whole Wheat White Flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • zest of a citrus (I used orange)
  • 2 T liquor (I used Grand Marnier)
  • 1/2 Vanilla (I used vanilla powder)
  • 1 1/2 C Whole milk Ricotta
  • 1/2 C Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C Whole milk
  • 3 eggs


Mix the dry ingredients.


Mix the Ricotta cheese with the milk and the vegetable oil. Then add the eggs.


Now add the liquid to the dry and mix thoroughly. Add the zest and liquor.

DSCF6358 DSCF6360

The batter is very thick. As it gets thicker with time, you can add more milk.

Cook the pancakes, about 1/4 C at a time.


Top the pancakes with the Marmalade and enjoy. No syrup needed!!


Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!

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Growing Up Italian: You are going to be in hot water….soon!


Recently I’ve found myself into hot water, really into it, and I never felt happier!

Hot water pastry, Rosa’s style

Ever since the Etruscan times, then the Romans, mixing flour and water has been very popular. To these days, an ancient Etruscan stove top bread called Torta al Testo is still part of the Umbrian diet.

For a full recipe of the Torta al testo see my previous post:

In Roman times, the dough was not there to eat, rather to preserve the juices and the aroma of the meat it was used to wrap. Later, in the 14th century, fats and dairy made their way into the dough. One could say it was the ancestor of our shortbread.

During Medieval times the dough was important to preserve meats, fruits and a variety of other fillings. In fact, the dough was even shaped from the inside, like a pot. Filled, and then covered with a dough “lid”.

So, why I’m getting so excited about some water and flour mix?

Well, this dough has a special quality. It works really well holding liquids. Do you have a runny chicken pot pie? do you have a stew that you want to bake? some cheese mix? This hot water pastry can handle it.

Easy to prepare, tough, delicious are just some of its qualities. This pastry dough will quickly turn out to be your new BFF in the kitchen.

Try it with your favorite savory pie filling. You will get into hot water, too, very fast!

[gn_box title=”HOT WATER CRUST PASTRY Enough for one 8in pie” color=”#385″]


  • 250 Gr of flour (high gluten)
  • 60 gr Butter~ unsalted
  • 50 gr Lard
  • 1 t salt
  • 100 gr water


Place the flour in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, over low heat melt the lard, the butter and the salt.

The fats should be melted by the time the water boils. When it does, pour it over the flour and start mixing.

DSCF5642 The dough as it first comes together.

At this stage the dough will be really warm, uneven looking, and quite..gooey.

DSCF5644 Not pretty….but wait!

Before you even attempt to work with this beauty, you have to let it come at room temperature. So, shape it in a ball, flatten it, cover it and let it rest.

It will take about 1 hour…..Have some wine!

..speaking of which, this is what I used with my meat pie. It goes really well with pork. It’s great for cooking, and has a fantastic price point. Open the bottle and let it air a little to breath. The wine will improve, and you will be pleasantly surprised.

2013 Pinot Noir from Underwood.

DSCF5984 Sometimes Inexpensive wines can be a pleasant addition to your meal.

After the hour has passed, lightly dust a board with flour. Divide the dough in half and reserve one half for the pie “lid”.

Now the dough is ready to be rolled out to be filled with your favorite recipe.

Here is what I did. Flour a wooden board, lightly.

Roll out the dough into a circle of about 6 inches larger than the base of the pie pan you need. The extra dough will go to cover the sides of the pan.

Then, fold the dough upon itself to reduce its diameter so that it can be lifted to be placed in the pan.

DSCF5779 Once you have transferred the dough inside the pan, carefully unfold to fit the dish

Keep unfolding the dough over the pie plate/pan rim

DSCF5782 Keep unfolding to cover the pan with the dough

Since the dough is so rich in fat, no need to grease the pan!
With your fingers make sure the dough adheres to the surface gently. Now, remove the excess dough.

DSCF5786 This is how I do it

Press and roll the rolling pin on the surface of the pan. It will cut the dough upon contact.
Remove the excess dough and keep it for garnishing the pie, if you like.
Place the pie in the refrigerator to firm up, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375F…

…or have some more wine…

DSCF5787 The dough is quite forgiving. It can be kneaded again DSCF5789 The Hot water Crust pastry can be fun to play with

Alternatively, you could also make individual meat pies.

DSCF5649 Little meat pies are great too

Then, do not forget the lids. They need to have a hole in the center, to allow the air to escape. Also, in the original version, some broth gelatin is poured back into the pie from the same hole.

This is how I shape mine

DSCF5650 I use a cake decorating tip to cut the steam holes in my mini pies

In the end, the sky is the limit. Fill the crust with what you want. Shape it like you want.

You can brush the top with cream or egg wash. I sprinkled mine with herbs, too.

DSCF5794 ….and bake it like you mean it!

The baking time will depend on how big your pie is. Mine took about 1 hour, while the mini pies took about 30 minutes.

I’m confident this recipe will become your “go~to” dough~ favorite pretty soon. When you are pushed for time, or planning on something different.

The Old Hot water pastry dough is the NEW way of baking, trust me.

DSCF5802 Savory or sweet both are delicious when made with this dough

Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!

For more recipes head for the EDN archives or

Growing up Italian: Black is the new … Pasta


Why do I love squid ink so much?

Squid ink Fettuccine, my production, tonight

Maybe because it instantaneously brings me back to childhood memories of family dinners at the coast in Italy.   Maybe because its unique smell, recalls the one of the Venetian lagoon, so dear to me. Or maybe, just because it has a distinctive and subtle ability to enhance almost any seafood dish? Whatever is the reason, today I couldn’t wait to come home from work and relax making some homemade pasta for dinner; and I made a sexy looking one, too!

With the sun shining bright, some Italian music playing, a good glass of wine….ohh…right! The wine!!

the wine I am using tonight. Photo by Sarah Tunnell

It really is great when one is able to drink and cook with the same wine, isn’t it? Tonight I opened a bottle of 2013 Territorial Pinot Gris. It screamed for some fresh seafood, so I obliged.

For more information on this wine, go to Here!

Without further ado, I got my pasta board out and started the routine.

First I gathered the ingredients. I have a special tab in my pantry that reads “unusual”. So, that is where my squid ink resides. While reaching for it, I pulled out some black garlic and black sesame seeds….because, you know, I like my dinners to be color coordinated.

The dinner in black: garlic, squid ink and sesame seeds.

Then I make the dough for pasta, while the dough rests, I can tackle the sauce. Finally it all comes together at once.





It’s a mouthful but you will thank me later.



  • 200gr AP flour
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 pkg of squid ink (available on line…or in Venice :) )


Place the flour on a wooden board (wood is best). Make a well in the center.


Carve a little crater in the pile of flour and place the ingredients inside.

Add the two whole eggs to the well, and the squid ink.

Now, it is about to get messy…


quite a sticky situation

Beat the eggs and the ink while ~at the same time~ adding the flour to the mix, little by little pulling it “in” from the sides.

When the egg mix starts to get sticky, then you can use your hands to work the ingredients together. You might not need to use all the flour. Trust your judgement.

The dough needs to come together, just a little sticky, but not too much. And..YES…your hands will be a mess, keep going. It’s like play dough!


Unlike markers, this black comes off really easily.

Now, the workout part: start kneading the dough for 10 minutes. The stretching of the dough is what will make the difference later.

You are done with your kneading when pressing a finger into the dough, it will bounce right back. Cover the dough with a bowl, and let rest 30 minutes.


I use this glass bowl to cover my pretty dough.

It’s time for another glass of the Pinot Gris!

To roll out the dough, cut it in about 5 little pieces and roll it out in the pasta machine.

I like my pasta on the thick side, so I stopped at setting #6 on an Atlas brand one.


Let the strips of rolled out dough rest for a few minutes to dry before you attempt to cut them into fettuccine.

When the dough is a little dryer roll the strips through the widest pasta setting of the pasta machine.


A pasta dryer is a good investment.

Place a large pot of water on the stove. While you wait for it to boil, start on the sauce.


Ingredients: ( For the quantity of noodles as in the above recipe)

  • 2 Tbs Butter ~unsalted
  • 2 Tbs EVOO
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or black garlic) sliced
  • Thyme (optional)
  • 1 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 400 gr large scallops
  • Zest of a citrus
  • 1 C wine ( Territorial 2013 Pinot Gris)
  • Salt to taste
  • To garnish: Black sesame seeds or finely chopped parsley


Place the Olive oil and butter in a sauce pan, add the garlic. When the garlic starts to fry lightly, add the cherry tomatoes and cook on medium high. Taste for salt.

Let the tomatoes soften up, then add the wine.

Let the wine cook down and evaporate, while softening the tomatoes even further.

The sauce is done when almost all the wine is evaporated. Add the citrus zest (and thyme if using) Set aside.

When the water (see above) is boiling dump the pasta( but keep the pasta water) at once and cook briefly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile melt some butter (or olive oil, or bacon fat) and when hot, sear the scallops. No longer than 2 minutes per each side. Taste for salt.

Drain the pasta into the sauce and toss to coat over medium heat.

Arrange the pasta on a plate, top with the scallops. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds or parsley. Serve immediately.



Until next time:

Mangia! and Ciao!

For more of Rosa’s recipes, go to EDN archives or my blog:










Pinot Gris Pairing with Rosa Mariotti!


Pinot Gris is one those classic Oregon varietals that is so versatile. We are so fortunate to live in an area that grows some pretty incredible Pinot gris grapes. Almost all producers in Oregon make this varietal, and they are a little less finicky to grow than Pinot Noir so they are usually at a great price point as well!

Pinot Gris grapes on the vine. (Photo Credit: Megan Cole)

This week I was introduced to a beautiful Pinot Gris produced by Territorial Vineyards, located right here in Eugene! Their tasting room is right downtown, near the Whitaker, and features some delicious oober-local wines. Their location is an old coffee warehouse converted into a winery. They also grow all of their own grapes at one of their two vineyard sites. One is near Crow, and the other is near Junction City and they grow a total of 26 acres. So you can say these grapes are sourced as local as it gets! Their winemaker is none other than Ray Walsh, who produces wine for a few wineries in town. He does some amazing work with grapes, that’s for sure.


The Territorial Vineyards 2013 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris was bursting with flavor! The nose was very aromatic, and had notes of honeysuckle and apricot. My initial reaction was that this wine was going to be on the sweeter side, but it leaned more on the dry side. Flavors of lemon peel and crisp green apple popped on each sip. It was medium bodied, with just a hint of tartness that was dying to be paired with something delicious. I know the perfect person to tackle the job!

(Photo Credit: Gerry)

Rosa and I had the opportunity to taste this Pinot gris together, and knew it had to be paired with one of her fantastic italian dishes. Lucky for us, Pinot gris is very versatile for pairing. Like I stated above though, this wine was dying to be paired specifically with seafood. The perfect pairing with this dish is Rosa’s homemade squid ink fettuccine with a wine (try it with the Territorial Pinot Gris!), black garlic, and cherry tomato sauce. Top it off with butter seared scallops and you have a match made it heaven. Thinking about enjoying the Pinot gris with the homemade fettuccine and seared scallops is making my mouth water. I know what I’m eat for dinner tonight. Cheers!

Rosa’s Squid Ink Fettuccine with a wine, black garlic, and tomato sauce. Topped with butter seared scallops and black sesame seeds – YUM!

Check this out! Growing Up Italian: Black Is The New … Pasta

Growing up Italian: More than a pie, It’s a Spaghetti Pie!


Wine and Food compliment each other, enhance each other. Sometimes they are opposite in taste (spicy / sweet) and that is ok, too. Like marriages or friendships, is often a fine balance that makes them work.

I recently started attending a wine pairing class, and met Sarah Tunnell. Yes! The Frugal Wine Gal from EDN is taking my same class. Sipping wine, and tasting food together, has inspired us to create a joint effort (very little effort, to tell you the truth) and co-write a piece.

This is the result of our first attempt. She is the Wine Gal, I’m the Food Dudette….what a hoot!

Julia Child said ” I love cooking with wine~I even put it in the food”

So do I! …and good wine I use. Possibly I like to drink the same wine I use in my dish, and viceversa. Life  is too short to drink cheap wine, and our food is only as good as the sum of its main ingredients. Even a simple plate of pasta, can become an experience on its own. In fact, imagine a regular pasta dish that goes to the “beauty parlor”….it  becomes a Spaghetti Pie!

DSCF2658 Meat Spaghetti Pie, a slice of Italy in your kitchen.

Something so good, one can’t stop eating. Something so beautiful, one can’t stop looking…guaranteed.

Now, the Spaghetti pie is not for your everyday meal. It’s reserved for special occasions, since it is quite time consuming to prepare.

Also, it’s versatile that it could be done with or without meat. Even the vegetarian version is quite impressive, and definitely, incredibly tasty. For this recipe I chose to use ground Lamb since I has some triumphant Sangiovese wine from Oregon. Yes, from Oregon~Remy Wines 2012 “Ciel du Cheval” Sangiovese, to be exact. This incredible wine, made right here in McMinnville won me over at the first sip. It seems to find its perfect pairing in this culinary cornerstone of the Italian Cuisine. It was born to accompany memorable gatherings.

image Sangiovese! Photo by Sarah Tunnell

MORE ON THIS WINE ON Wine Pairing with Rosa Mariotti

So, turn the volume up, get your favorite music blasting, invite some great friends over. Open a bottle of Sangiovese, and make the Spaghetti pie.

YOUR Big Night just got better!

[gn_box title=”Spaghetti Pie” color=”#3B5″]

Ingredients for a large pie for 8 people

2 lb Pasta. (Thin spaghetti or Angel Hair pasta)

3/4 lb of Grated Parmigiano cheese

1 stick of butter

1 lb of Tomato sauce ~ I use Mutti’s in a bottle of 700gr

2  lg bunches of fresh basil

1 lb of Fresh mozzarella cheese~ sliced about 1/2″ thick

About 4 eggplants~ sliced and fried

8 oz of breadcrumbs

EVOO, salt and pepper to taste

For the MEAT Sauce:

2 lb Ground Lamb

4 cloves of garlic

1 small onion

1/2 to 2/3 C Sangiovese Remy 2012 Ciel du Cheval


Butter a large round baking pan (10 to 12 “) with high sides. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Pre heat the oven to 375F.

Prepare the meat : In a medium saucepan, saute’ the diced onion and the minced garlic with 2 T olive oil and 2 T butter. When the onion starts to caramelize,add the ground lamb and brown the meat thoroughly. Deglaze with the wine. Let the wine evaporate, and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously and cook the pasta very al dente, since the pasta will cook again in the oven.

(Al dente: the pasta should cook about 2 minutes less than what indicated in the package)

Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce, the remaining butter and the Parmigiano cheese. Spread the pasta onto a baking sheet to cool. Stir the noodle every so often to make sure they fully absorb the sauce and get coated.

Once the pasta has cooled enough you can handle it, start draping it around the pan, filling the bottom with it, leaving the excess to fall out of the pan, like in the picture below.

Spaghetti coat the pan and are ready to be “stuffed”

Now the fun begins!

Pour yourself another glass, and star layering the eggplants on the bottom of the pan coating the sides, too.

20141129_152746 Layers of goodness! Photo Courtesy of Kirk Koenig.

You might have extra eggplant slices, so pick the nicest and longest ones for this step. You can thank me later :)

Place the basil leaves over the eggplants, and then the sliced mozzarella.

Top with the meat.

Now, pressing lightly, fold the tips of the eggplant slices towards the center of the pie, like in the pictures below.

10930992_10203310676983181_2605188723035951685_n Crating a masterpiece? you betcha!

If you are making a VEGETARIAN Spaghetti pie, omit the meat step, and use some fresh cherry tomatoes instead.

Now, fold the hanging spaghetti over the eggplant and press firmly. Dust with breadcrumbs and dab with little pieces of butter.

Bake at 375F for an 45 min to an hour, covered with foil. After an hour, remove the foil and keep cooking until crisp for another 10 minutes.

Wait 10 minutes before unmolding.

Then, you should get something that resembles this:

DSCF2652 Hello Gorgeous!

If it does, pour yourself another glass of Sangiovese. You are now officially a step closer to Italianhood!

Wait until the pie cools a few more minutes before cutting into it.

Slice like you would do for a pie, top it with some more cheese and serve it sprinkled with some good EVOO.

Wasn’t this fun? I think so, too!

Until next time, Mangia and Ciao!

For more of Rosa’s recipes don’t forget to “Like” the “Growing up Italian” page on Facebook.

Wine Pairing with Rosa Mariotti!


This term I had the opportunity to take Lane Community College’s “Oregon Wine Country” class with Rosa Mariotti, Eugene Daily News’ own talented Italian chef. Her recipes are authentic Italian cuisine that are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends alike. Recently, we had a chance to try a wine that was not only fantastic, but was dying to be paired with some delicious Italian cuisine. The local wine we loved was the Remy Wines 2012 “Ciel Du Cheval” Sangiovese, an italian varietal that was grown in Washington but made right here in Oregon. Rosa came up with the perfect pairing for this wine, the italian classic “Timballo Di spaghetti”. It is absolutely drool-worthy!

image Remy Wines 2012 Sangiovese. Behind it is another delicious varietal, the 2009 Barbera.

Remy Wines is one of my favorite wine producers in Oregon. Remy Drabkin, the winemaker and brains behind the operation, has spent time making wine in Burgundy and then found a passion for Italian style wines. She produces almost exclusively Italian varietals like Barbera, Nebbiolo, and of course, Sangiovese. In a place full of delicious and delicate Pinot Noirs, Remy Wines really stands out. She puts her passion into making some of the best big red varietal wines I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I get to share them.


The 2012 “Ciel Du Cheval” Sangiovese was such a great find. From the first sip to the smooth finish, I enjoyed every step of the way. It had flavors of big berries like ripe blue and blackberries. It’s aging in oak added notes of vanilla and toasted nuts as well. It was big bodied but had a luscious and velvety mouth feel. The tannins were rounded out just right, creating an all around fantastic experience.

DSCF2658 Timballo Di Spaghetti and Sangiovese: A match made in heaven.

This wine really called for a dish that was rich and filled with meat and red sauce to balance out the tannins and big flavors. Timballo di Spaghetti is the perfect fit. A spaghetti pie filled with homemade red sauce and delicious lamb is an excellent pairing for this big bodied red wine. For a delicious, authentic italian recipe for this dish check out the recipe here. Wine and food were made to enjoyed together, and this pairing is the perfect way to experience it yourself. Cheers!

Growing Up Italian: The Travel Bug


Italians abroad are everywhere, seems like. Loud, stylish, insubordinate, rule-breakers-tourists. Then, there are the travelers. Respectful, conscientious,curious and educated.


I like to think I always belonged to the second category. Just like when growing up, at our condo at the coast, Mom would always tell me to walk silently, so that the noise would not bother the people downstairs during the quiet hours.

To travel is a privilege, and I was fortunate enough to take full advantage of it at a fairly young age, when I got myself a job in a travel agency. Can I say “great perks”?!

The downside is that, decades later, I realize how unprepared I was and how much of it I missed during my experiences abroad. All and all, being exposed to so many cultures has made me a more tolerant person for sure. Extensive travels helped me get a better prospective on life, and a mellower attitude.

It didn’t happen overnight, though. It started in the early days of Summer 1974, when I went on a field trip to Rome. The two hour journey from my hometown Perugia to the Old Roman Forum helped  shape my life forever.

Roma, Foro Romano. End of the school year field trip.1974 I’m the one on the far left.

I still remember the checkered white and red dress I wore that day, tied in the back with a girly bow. I also wore white cotton socks and black shoes with a little chevron pattern on the front. I was in company of my classmates. The Roman Forum was our playground for the day. I’m sure we had knowledge of the history of the place. However, exploring the ancient ruins, climbing the giant Roman pieces of white marble like they were common boulders, was exhilarating.

(one can’t do that anymore)

The columns to the top right are where I was standing on my other picture. Roman Forum- Divo Giulio Temple

Touching something that had stood there for centuries, observing the majestic constructions, was such an eye opener for me. Right then and there, I felt the urge to know more, to want to see more. What else, in the eyes of an 8 year old girl, could it be so fascinating? I wanted an answer.

In high school I got to go to France. During that trip, I also discovered the even our taste buds giggle when they have something to be excited for. I discovered that trying new flavors is fun! And so my young persona got shaped: I got the irresistible curiosity to see, and taste more of the world. In Montmartre I had a young gorgeous African French woman draw my portrait. I always wondered, over the years, if she ever became the famous artist she wanted to be in 1985.

A French Souvenir

My serious travels begin in the early 90s. Back then it was fun to fly. No one asked you to remove your shoes or your jacket. Nobody cared how much Listerine you carried with you.

Even in economy class, passengers were treated better than today. I remember receiving goodie bags with warm socks, a sleeping mask, toothpaste and toothbrush…not to mention a paper menu with our food choices, and REAL silverware!

Another thing I remember is that, upon landing, especially on long intercontinental flights, passengers applauded the crew to celebrate the journey, and as a way to thank them for the safe flight. Nowadays, we barely pay attention to the safety reminders before take off, and upon landing we hurry like cattle through a cattle-shoot. We have lost the sense of appreciation in favor of the one of urgency. Too bad.

Italians also travel in groups. In packs like wolves, not out of insecurity, but as another occasion to spend time with the loved ones, and increase exponentially the fun factor.

There is always a clown in the party, always one who’s super-organized, someone who knows all the best places to eat….an Italian traveling group doesn’t need Google :)

My destinations of choice would include a beach, of course. Possibly pristine and off the beaten path.

Maldives,Indian Ocean, Bodufinolu island. 1990
Zanzibar (land of a thousand spices) Tanzania, 1996


Roatan, Honduras. Swimming with Dolphins.2006
Cruising the Caribbean, 2006


Oahu, Hawaii 1994


And then, of course, there is always something new to try in the food department!

Retsina, a wine that has been made for 2000 year. Cyprus 1995


Who can resist a fresh pineapple? Hawaii 1994

Or looking like a deer in the headlight when wanting to choose a restaurant in Hong Kong. 1991

One cannot have a favorite place until one has seen them all. This is my motto.

So, when in doubt, travel! Now, I don’t have an unlimited budget. I work hard and travel cheap. I don’t plan ahead. I found out that “winging it”  is the best way to get to know the real world, avoiding the tourist traps. The best experiences,the most memorable just happened to me by chance.

Mosque in Dubai. 1996



Valley of Queens, Egypt. 1995


Sahara Desert 1995

When I travel, I often have to give up with the fact that my hair won’t always be perfect. Actually, BAD HAIR DAYS are an EVERYDAY occurrence. Especially for a naturally dry-curly-hair girl.

Great wall of China. 1992. Humidity, I do not like thee, neither does my hair.
The Higher the hair the closer the sky :) New Mexico 2000
If I grew a beard I would look like… (New England. 1993)
Afro look in Four Corners 2011
And eventually, in my old age I learned. Get a bandanna girl! Horse shoe bend, Page 2012

The other thing I don’t worry about when I travel, is my look. Frumpy is ok. Oversized means comfortable. Color coordination? Seriously? No, thanks, not a priority. Then, there are always those times when your suitcase doesn’t make it. If there is any chance of that happening on a trip, you can be sure that the only suitcase that doesn’t make it to its final destination…is MINE!!

At times, I had to wear men’s shirts or pants. Or a long dressy skirt to go into the forest, or a fancy suit to go horseback riding…..To make matter worst there seemed to be someone ready with a camera to capture the moment as a constant reminder of the WARDROBE-MAJOR-FAIL-DAY, and a good inspiration for a big laughter afterwards.

Wearing men’s swimsuit trunks in China. 2004
Well….I match a vase! ..the pants were on sale at the shop in the hotel! China


I remember thinking: “Seriously? Are you taking a pic? Like wearing a long pareo shirt in the forest is not enough?” :) Zanzibar spotting the Red Colobus monkeys
Borrowing a t-shirt to visit the Yucatan. Mexico 2004


This one takes the cake: Horseback ride in Tunisia having to wear a white suit. 2002…and there is always that frizzy hair of mine.

Despite all of these clothing-adversities, I never missed a bit. In reality, I think that when one puts the desire to learn and to explore over his/her personal wants, that is when one becomes really a traveler.

In conclusion, when I look back at my life so far, I think “I can’t believe I got to do that!” and I smile. That distant day in the summer of 1974, when I got the travel bug, I promised myself to always keep this sense of wonder. The thirst for exploration comes always with the utmost respect for the place I visit. I want to tip-toe through the world, leaving minimum traces, and if possible, my wish is to leave it a better one for others to ejoy.

For my first 50 years, I think I’ve done a good job. Let’s see what the rest of my life brings! Work hard, play hard, and remember:

Love this quote!

No matter how far I go, “Home sweet home” comes to mind every time I return. Sleeping in my own bed is priceless, and much appreciated. A good cup of coffee in the morning, and the ability to return to my kitchen are also treasured possessions.

In every place I visited, from Honk Kong to Zanzibar to Hawaii, I have been able to find an Italian staple: PIZZA.

Not that I would eat Italian when I travel, but upon returning home, a good Pizza is what I want. Mom’s dough recipe is easy, quick and tasty. As for the toppings, I typically choose a simple one of tomatoes, olive oil, oregano and capers. Cheese optional.

[gn_box title=”MOM’S olive oil PIZZA DOUGH” color=”#A33″]
DSCF1650 Marinara Pizza: my favorite!


  • 2 1/2 c AP flour
  • 3/4 C whole milk
  • 1/3 C olive oil, no substitutions, pleas
  • 1 heaping tsp of baking powder
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 2 tsp salt, kosher or sea salt


Mix all the ingredients and knead quickly to make the dough come together.

Roll it out to about 1/4 ” thickness (the thicker the crunchier-however I like it also thick)

Poke with a fork and top with your favorite ingredients.

Bake at 400 degrees until the top starts to bubble and has some golden brown color around the edges. I also check the bottom of the pizza to make it’s crunchy-liscous :)

Bakes approximately 30 minutes.

10348436_10202730769285851_8277639978498842289_n Mushrooms and Olives are a nice addition, too.


My travel days now are few and far between. However, pretty often,I remind myself that I’m living in another Country after all. Then I look at things with gratitude, and differently, like if I were a traveler again. Sometimes we take for granted the beauty we see everyday.  Wherever you are, may your sense of wonder and curiosity never leave you. Even if you just explore your neighborhood.

This, is really a wonderful world!

Mangia! Enjoy!!

Growing up Italian: The real Italian job


There is a lagoon famous all over the world that attracts millions of tourists every year. There is a city built on sand that inspired movies, books and intriguing  love affairs. There is a port that made history worldwide. There are buildings that endured centuries, wars and domination. There is a unique culinary experience that accompanies it all.

Landing at the Marco Polo airport in Venice gives me goosebumps, always!


How my first morning in Venice usually looks like …


Venice is everything one would imagine, and then some.

Vintage postcard from Venice

People often ask me, what is the best time to visit Venice? Every day is a great day in Venice I say!

In winter, the Serenissima ( aka Most Serene, a title given to the Republic of Venice) is often wrapped in mist. Like a shy girl, she shows  her real self only to a few selected friends. Away from the seasonal tourist crowds, Venice is mostly enjoyed by its residents.

Venice at Midnight in December. Photo by my friend and Venician resident Stefano Minetto

Then, also in winter, there might be some snow. There is high water.The lagoon might freeze, and the scenery gets really surreal. Some of these weather conditions are not suited for carrying on the best everyday routine for the residents, but as a tourist … has its own unique appeal for sure!

Venezia, 01/12/2010 - Non c'è tregua per i veneziani, questa mattina, dopo una breve pausa è tornato il cattivo tempo con vento freddo e pioggia accompagnato dall'acqua alta.
High water in Piazza S. Marco (St Mark square)
Ice in the Lagoon during the winter 2012
Snow in Venice, a rare occurrence. Seen from the window of my friend Stefano’s apartment. Peaceful !


There are no cars in Venice. The ambulances, fire trucks, taxis, buses and even the funeral vehicles are substituted with boats. Other than that, Venitians walk everywhere!

You recognize the’s not what Brown can do for you. Here is Mr. Blue :) delivering in Venice.
Firetruck, in Venice.

There are a million bridges in Venice. Some are famous, some are not. Some are large, some are tiny. Each is unique and can lead to a magic corner of the city. I never travel with a map. I really enjoy getting lost and finding my way back through a different route. Venice is a treasure chest, with little trinkets scattered everywhere.

On our way to the hotel, the Bridge of Sighs.


Rialto bridge at 6am. The only time of the day when it’s not crowded by tourists and it can be seen like it really is: Majestic.


Just another little bridge somewhere in Venice.

Then there is the bird that represents Venice the most: Pigeons! They are everywhere, comfortably living the lazy life, like a cat on its chair.

Pigeons in St.Mark Square
Local residents.

Summer is when Venice really comes alive. In July the city turns into a gigantic Tailgating party for the Festa del Redentore. The Redentore Festival is celebrated on the third Sunday of July, with a grandiose fireworks show on Saturday night as the main attraction. The Venetians take part in the spectacle of fireworks right from their boats, which are usually decorated with balloons, festoons and lights. Starting before sunset, the boats make their way to the Saint Mark’s Basin and to the Giudecca Canal. The waters sparkle with the reflection of boats and lights. On the boats, among song, dance and typical food, people wait for the fireworks that begin at 11.30 p.m. and go on for almost an hour. Along the banks thousands of people also wait for the fireworks at long tables set up for the occasion. I was fortunate enough to attend a few of these celebrations over the years, and I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Italians do it better: it’s a party boat! Festa del Redentore 2010


Sitting precariously in a tiny gondola, getting dusted by the ashes coming down from the fireworks. I remember taking this picture and shedding tears of happiness.
Magic night for the lagoon that repeats itself only one day a year.

In September then, there is the Historical Regatta that re-enacts the one hosted in 1489 to commemorate the welcome to Caterina Cornaro,  the wife of the king of Cyprus who renounced to her throne in favor of Venice….now…do you blame her? :)

Original reproductions of costumes and boats make the lagoon most colorful.
St Mark Square night (foot) traffic

Then, for the night owls, Venice has a variety of al fresco dining experiences stretching as wide as your wallet allows it. Cafe’ Florian in St. Mark Square sells over-priced drinks with an unlimited view of one of the most beautiful squares in the world, and a string quartet that plays the soundtrack to an unforgettable Italian night.

The Islands! Yes, there are the famous islands in the lagoon. Burano and Torcello are my favorite, the last one off the beaten path.

Burano is charming, cozy and cheerful with its brightly colored homes. Tradition has it that the wives of the fisherman would paint the houses so bright they could be seen for miles, even in bad weather, by their husbands at sea.

This color combination wouldn’t look this good anywhere else. Burano Island


Fresh flowers, colors and religious symbols. Burano Island


Bill and I in Burano 2012

If one stays clear of the “touristy” areas, Venice will surprise even the most discriminating traveler. Its people are friendly and the living is fun, just embrace the lagoon…

Locals shopping at the “market” in the island of Murano.

As a foodie, Venice offers infinite opportunities to enjoy the traditional cuisine of the lagoon. Ernest Hemingway had his favorite fishmarket. It didn’t take long to understand why.

Rialto Fish Market. Fresh fish, daily

Seafood is a key ingredient in the Venitian diet. It has been like this for centuries. Housewives go to the market daily to purchase the freshest elements for their meals. Same thing for the vegetables and fruit.

When in Venice every day is a “heyday” for me when it comes to food. A constant celebration of flavors, history and human creativity.

Squid ink pasta (typical of Venice) with shellfish from the lagoon, and a Caprese Salad. Perfect lunch!

And then after the glorious summer, Venice goes back to her serene state again, coming to life briefly in February for its CARNEVALE (Carnival) when people crowd every single corner of the city in a joyful celebration. Magnificent costumes, artfully constructed, enhance the Most Serene city, if that is possible at all. Everyday life attire, coexist- for a day- with the pompous medieval fashion. Plumes, colors and paillettes bring sparkle to an otherwise grey town.

For a weekend in winter, Venice shines of its own light.


Carnevale a Venezia
Glorious crisp cold day in the lagoon

My friend Stefano, born and raised in Venice says: “There are no strangers, just friends whom you haven’t met, yet”.  This is the spirit of Venice. A city that has always embraced changes, adventures, colors, diversity, and mostly….love, in every aspect of living.

The recipe I’m enclosing today comes from Stefano’s wife, Paola. She is great cook, and she made this for me one warm summer night.

My long time best friends Stefano and Paula. As Venetian as it gets!

It’s a ridiculously simple recipe, but so deliciously decadent. For those who believe that cheese and fish don’t mix…oh well, too bad, so sad.

Another reason to try this recipe.

This dish is rich, bold, vibrant and surprising. Just like a day in Venice. Enjoy!

[gn_box title=”PASTA CON TONNO (Paola’s tuna melt pasta)” color=”#AA0″]
NOTE: since this is a very simple recipe, the quality of its ingredients is crucial. I use homemade butter or the best unsalted butter you can afford. Kerrygold is a good choice.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 400 gr pasta (Spaghetti are ok, or I like to use maccaroni)
  • 100 gr Tuna. ( Again, the best tuna you can buy. Home canned or in oil, not the one in water)
  • 3 anchovies
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a generous pinch of freshly chopped parsley
  • 3/4 stick of butter


With a fork, mesh the tuna, anchovies, and the butter to a paste.

If using fresh tuna, you can sear it and slice it. Then mix it lightly with the butter instead.

Cook the pasta according to the package direction.

Strain it and put back the noodles in the pan, coat the pasta with the butter and tuna, add some parsley and taste for salt.

I usually add a generous handful of grated cheddar cheese. My Italian family would not approve of it, I’m sure..but it tastes sooo good!

Dust with pepper before serving. Serve immediately.


Until next time, Mangia, Enjoy, Ciao!

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