Food & Drink Magazine

Stories from the Heart and a Holiday Recipe….

By Marialiberati

Here is another  heart warming story of food and cooking Italian  with The Basic Art of Italian Cooking  from one of our readers. And if you have a story to share with our The Basic Art of Italian Cooking readers…. love to hear it…. Send your story (500 words of less) to [email protected].

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This story comes form Anna M. Aquino ( Thanks Anna!

Guest Post by Anna M. Aquino

I still remember the scene. My husband and I were newly married and I was trying to be a good wife by cooking what I thought would be a good meal. We were renting the back end of a house in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. at the time and the floorboards of my kitchen were warped and uneven. The smell of bean soup flavored with a ham hock and corn bread had been a cultural staple of my childhood. I grew up with foods like mashed potato candy and corned beef and cabbage. I knew what was the American version of  spaghetti, but that is as far as my Italian cooking went. Culturally I come from the most politically correct term of Appalachian, but with loving humor I say I’m an Ohio Redneck.

pietra fietta(photo of Pietra Fietta from

“What is that?” I could tell my husband was forcing a smile. It was a look that was painted on with humor and obligation. My husbands’ family immigrated from a small village called Pietra Fietta Cosenza Italy in the 50’s. While he has never set foot in his motherland he grew up in an oasis of Italian culture and life. He didn’t speak English until he went to school. He had no need to.

He tried the meal, and if I remember correctly with a slight gagging reflex he managed to consume a bowl. I realized that night I would have to learn to cook Italian.

As an outsider looking into my mother-in-law’s kitchen it can be a bit overwhelming. Italians celebrate food like one would examine a fine piece of art. My mother-in-law is a Rembrandt in the kitchen. When you ask her how to cook something she’ll tell you by memory. There are  no exact measurements and it’s done all to taste. She wields her wooden spoon like a paint brush wafting homegrown ingredients out of my father-in-law’s back yard garden teasing the palate. Mouthwatering dishes, that until I married my husband, I had never heard of: Vitello, gnocchi, homemade tiramisu and melanzana. The women come together for weeks before the holidays to make Turdilli,a traditional sweet from Cosenza… They still cure their own capicollo, prosciutto, and make their own sausages. It’s as if they have an internal scale in their mind and it isn’t okay to leave their home unless you have tasted everything. Family meals are seas of faces, copious amounts of wine, and people shouting Mangia Mangia !

I’ve been trying my Italian wings now for 12 years. I’ve learned the family secret to the sauce, but don?t ask me what it is because I can?t tell you. My cooking still  isn’t as good as my mother-in-law’s but I’m working on it, and I understand my husbands need to have some kind of pasta on Sundays. I still make my Ohio foods, and my husband has learned to tolerate them. My tour through Italian cooking has been a journey but like any good wine, and it just keeps getting better!


Stories from the Heart and a Holiday Recipe….

1 cup of olllive oil

1 cup of white Vermouth

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour


peanut oil for frying

Heat olive oil and vermouth in a pan till just before boiling. Place sugar in a bowl. Pour hot olive oil mixture into bowl and stir until sugar melts. Add in sifted flour, about 1/4 cup at a time. Stirring after each addition. Mix dough until soft, but lucid. Place on a floured wooden board and work the dough till not sticky. Cut dough into pieces that are 1-1/2 inches in diameter and 1 inch long. Dust pieces with flour and press each piece with a fork. Cover pieces with towel, let stand for 30 minutes. Heat oil in frying pan, enough oil to cover pan and about 2 inches high. Fry till golden, dough will puff up when fried, remove and place on towel paper. When cool, heat honey in saucepan, place in cooled turdilli, toss gently and coat with honey. Place on parchment paper on serving plate, decorate with colored sprinkles.

For more Holiday recipes get your copy of the Gourmand World Award Winning book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions- 2nd editionStories from the Heart and a Holiday Recipe….

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