Archive for the ‘Lost Recipes Found’ Category

A lost lasagna revived.


Sweet Christmas Eve Lasagna

Dear Erica,

My father was born in Barile, Provincia di Potenza, Basilicata. His father was from Bari. My grandmother and my mother always made their lasagna with eggs mixed in the ricotta, and with sugar and cinnamon. We ate this with the meatballs layered in between, and with tomato sauce. I never liked this lasagna, and when I married I started making it without the sugar and cinnamon. I married a man from Naples who doesn’t like my family’s way of cooking.

I was wondering if this was a recipe that was brought over from Italy. My mother seems to think that my grandmother mistook nutmeg for cinnamon, and that we just carried it on. But why the sugar? I love trying to find out Italian customs. Thanks for any info.


Rita (more…)

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Cavicionetti all’Abruzzese.


Cavicionetti all’Abruzzese

Dear Erica,

I am a big fan of your books, and having discovered your wonderful “Lost Recipes Found” feature, I decided to see if you could help me out. I spent a few years in Abruzzo about 14 years ago. Around Christmas, I recall, a friend of my host mother made wonderful little pastries stuffed with a spicy (clove, cinnamon) and orange-flavored (maybe) dried-fruit filling (prune for sure). The pastry was a bit like pâte brisée in texture. However, maybe my memory is twisting the reality a bit. Have you ever encountered anything like this either in your travels or among your books? It would be great if you could help me out.

Thank you very much in advance!

Best regards,

Victoria (more…)

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Fresh cardoons for Felice’s lost recipe.


Pumpkin Agro Dolce with Vinegar and Mint
Batter Fried Cardoons with Anchovy Tomato Salsa

Hi Erica,

I am second-generation Italian, my maternal grandparents coming from the hills of San Fratello in Sicily and my paternal ones from the mainland around Naples. My mom’s mother (I’m her namesake) was the only grandparent I met, and I recall two recipes from when I was small that I wish I could reconstruct.

She passed away when I was a teenager, and of course during the 1970s being Italian, or eating Italian regionalized foods, wasn’t cool, so I never paid much attention to how things were prepared. I was, however, a closet Italian-food eater, and I absolutely loved the foods grandma made . . . just not in front of my more American friends!

There are two recipes that I wish I could reconstruct, since I have very fond memories of them. Unfortunately, in those days, everything was done without measuring and was committed to memory, not paper. Anyway, here goes: (more…)

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Orange and herring salad with almonds and frisée.


Orange and Herring Salad with Almonds and Frisée

I recently came across a reference to a recipe called “Mackerel, Almond, Orange, and Fennel.” The combination sounds great, but I can’t find an actual recipe. Do you have one?

Herbert D.

When I first read this intriguing but vague request from one of my readers, I immediately thought of a hot dish of mackerel roasted with fennel and orange zest and then garnished with toasted almonds. Delicious. But then I remembered that this flavor combo was familiar to me in another incarnation. About eight years ago, on my first trip to Sicily, I ate dinner at a place in Palermo that specialized in traditional Sicilian dishes (most places in Palermo specialize in traditional Sicilian dishes, but this one seemed to do so in an especially antiquated and formal way). I unfortunately can’t remember the name of the place, but I recall an interesting dessert, a watermelon gelatina, poured into a pastry shell and decorated with fresh jasmine blossoms. The gelatin itself was flavored with cinnamon and rosewater, and dusted with cocoa, a strange but delicious combination with obvious Arab lineage. Another dish I ate that evening was an antipasto, a salad of smoked fish, which may have been sardines, herring, or mackerel-something strong-with orange slices and toasted almonds. The taste was startling, in a not altogether good way. Something about the fish and orange mingled to produce the aroma of low tide. But I thought about that dish when I got home and somehow felt the combination had potential. (more…)

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My new take on a classic I learned years ago.


Eggplant and Ricotta Gratinée

Many of the recipes I attempted when I first got serious about cooking many moons ago have left me with the sweetest nostalgia, even more than some of my beloved childhood dishes. It must be because they are foods I was drawn to and first learned to cook completely on my own. The culinary romance that was brewing in my head took me to the lands of Mediterranean flavors. Being a Southern Italian by heritage, I wasn’t surprised to find myself going in this direction, but at first my snobbism sent me looking for something more glamorous than my grandmother’s meatballs. (Now I think of her meatballs, studded with raisins and pine nuts, as the height of glamour.) (more…)

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Fresh summer ingredients for Pete’s ciambotta.


Ciambotta with Fried Capers

Dear Erica,

I love your “Lost Recipes Found” feature, and for months I’ve been trying to think of an old family recipe that nobody seems to know how to make anymore. With the eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes coming up from my next-door neighbor’s garden (and some winding up on my porch), I realize what it is: ciambotta. This was a big vegetable stew my family made often but only in the summer, with vegetables from my father’s own backyard garden. I never paid much attention to the garden when I was a kid, but I loved ciambotta. I unfortunately also never paid much attention to what was going on in the kitchen, but I can tell you this stew contained zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and probably other things. I think we added oregano. My sister remembers olives, but I don’t think that’s correct. But I remember something sharp, possibly capers. It was thick and very rich. I recently tried my hand at it, but the texture was very watery and it really didn’t have much taste. I added garlic, but now I’m thinking my father used some sort of red scallion he grew. I’d love to taste a good version of this again. I know it’s a well-known thing, but I imagine families all have different versions that make it special for them. (more…)

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Pasta from Hadrian’s Villa.
Farro spaghetti with zucchini blossoms, mozzarella, and anchovies.


Farro Spaghetti with Zucchini Blossoms, Mozzarella, and Anchovies

Several years ago, while in Italy, making my way by car to Puglia, I stopped en route to see Hadrian’s Villa, the second-century estate and gardens of the emperor Adriana, at Tivoli. I had never been there before but the place’s crumbling glamour beckoned. A friend, a painter, had recently given us a painting he did of the estate, and looking at it on our wall for several months made me feel I needed to go take a look for myself. (more…)

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