Easy Italian Recipes: Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup
Minestrone Soup
Now that the chill is in the air and starting to get even chillier, it’s time to bring out the rib-sticking, hearty soup that Grandma made. Minestrone is one of the most popular Italian soups and is full of vegetables, beans and small soup pasta. It is easy to prepare and will fill you up on a brisk fall or winter day. In fact, minestrone is so good all year round. Let’s first take a look at what you’ll need and then we’ll look at the directions for the recipe. Personally, I love to put 2 types of beans plus small pasta called “Ditalini” in my soup as well as lots of veggies. Feel free to add other veggies or soup pastas like “Small Shells” if you wish. You will need a large saucepan and the ingredients listed below.

INGREDIENTS:FullSizeRender (2)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I use extra virgin)
  • 1 chopped medium yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
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  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 7 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can drained cannellini beans
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp each of fresh chopped parsley & fresh chopped basil
    FullSizeRender (3)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium fresh carrots, diced
  • 1 small can chick peas, drained
  • 1 cup dried soup pasta (I use ditalini)
  • 1 small can tomatoes, (chopped & seeded) with liquid
  • ½ cup green bean pieces
    FullSizeRender (4)
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup grated Parmigiano cheese, to serve


  1. FullSizeRenderHeat the oil slowly in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Be careful not to burn them (about 5 minutes).
  3. Pour in the vegetable broth and increase the heat to medium.
  4. Add the cannellini beans, tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, sugar, green beans, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaf, basil, pasta, and chickpeas.
  5. Cook for 25-30 minutes until vegetables are tender and pasta is al dente. Stoves may vary on cooking times.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to simmer.
  7. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and serve immediately with parmigiano cheese on top.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this lazy afternoon recipe.
Perfect for your football weekend!
Have a great one, see you Tuesday!


Tested in the THASC kitchen with Italian love.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Cannoli


Rabbit, Rabbit, everyone! It’s the first of the month and I’m sure after trying my delicious tiramisù recipe you are ready for another delectable Italian dessert perhaps even more well-known: CANNOLI. Cannoli originated in Sicily and there are many versions of fillings and additions and decorations but the one I am going to give you here is the simplest and the most common. First you need to buy cannoli shells (tubes of fried pastry dough) already packaged. Many Italian specialty food stores carry them. From this point on, it’s a breeze. Make sure you serve them soon after they are made, as you do not want the pastry tubes to get soggy from the filling. Either that or keep them well chilled until served. Once your filling is done and put in a pastry bag, you are practically finished.

Here’s what you will need:20150926_163306

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 rubber spatula
  • 1 box of pastry bags (to squeeze filling)

Makes 20-30 cannoli depending on size & filling.


  • 2-3 packaged cannoli shells (10 or 12 per pack)
  • 2 lb. container of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3-5 small packets of sugar (to taste)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar for dusting20150926_165959
  • 1½ cups of small dark chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of chocolate sprinkles
  • 2 cups of crushed pistachio nuts
  • Fruited cherry halves if preferred to 20150926_171749-1decorate ends


  1. Empty entire container of ricotta into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make a deep “well” in the middle of the ricotta and drop two whole eggs into the well.
  3. Start by adding 3 packets of sugar and blend the ricotta, eggs and sugar with a rubber spatula.
  4. When the mixture is well blended (by hand) taste to see if you prefer the mixture to be sweeter. If so, add more sugar and blend again.
  5. Stir in about 1 cup of chocolate chips and blend well so the chips are dispersed evenly.
  6. When the mixture is ready, spoon as much as will fit into a pastry bag and twist tightly at the end.
  7. Make sure the opening of the pastry bag is wide enough to squeeze the chocolate chips through and begin filling the pastry tubes first half-way at one end and then fill the other end to complete the tube.
  8. Holding the cannolo in the middle, press one end gently into a small bowl of chocolate sprinkles.
  9. Then press the other end of the cannolo gently into the bowl of crushed pistachios.
  10. If you prefer, you may place a dried fruit cherry half into each end of the cannolo.
  11. Place cannoli on a platter in such a way that you may sift confectioners sugar over the tops of the cannoli.

Place in refrigerator and don’t wait too long to serve so the pastry tube remains crisp. Buon appetito!!


I do hope that you have enjoyed this week’s blogs of easy Italian dessert recipes. Please right a comment and let me know how they worked out for your special dinner or party. I will reply quickly!

Have a pleasant weekend and join me next week as we return to the wonderful THASC artists and take a look at Autumn at its peak! Hope you are enjoying the foliage!


Tested in the THASC kitchen with Italian love.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Tiramisù “Pull Me Up”


While filming episodes for my Rockefeller Fellowship in Tuscany called “Images of Italy”, I thought it would be fun to film the classic dessert that is one of the best known here in the States as well. So my crew and I took a chance and randomly entered a small trattoria in Florence named “Paoli” and introduced myself and explained my mission to film things of interest for my students. The staff, chef and owner were eager to accommodate me, and it was, in fact, the owner, Francesca, who was actually in the middle of making the dessert of the day: Tiramisù. The first thing I must stress is that REAL tiramisù is made with mascarpone cheese and NOT cream cheese, as many here seem to use to cut corners. It is also important that certain parts of the recipe be prepared before others. So let’s get to Firenze and get it from the horse’s mouth:

Prep time should take about ½ hour.
Servings: about 6-8 depending on the size of the glass dish


  • 2 cups of strong espresso coffee chilled
  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup fine granulated sugar
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate shavings
  • 2 cups of sifted cocoa for dusting
  • 1 glass baking dish about 3-4” deep


  1. Make espresso coffee first and let it cool or put on fridge to get cold once it’s cooled.
  2. In a thick bowl mix the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, vanilla extract and sugar and mix well. It should be a pourable mixture now. If not, add small amounts of cream, very little at a time so it is.
  3. Pour enough of the above mixture in the glass dish so that the bottom is covered.
  4. Once the coffee is cold, take it out and soak each ladyfinger in it and set them flat in the dish next to each other.
  5. Pour the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers and use a rubber spatula to smooth it over.
  6. Repeat with another layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and cover them in the same way with the mascarpone mixture so that the mascarpone is on top before putting the cocoa.
  7. Dust the entire top of the last layer with sifted cocoa so that the cream is completely covered.
  8. Sprinkle chocolate shavings over the cocoa.
  9. Refrigerate for a few hours before you plan to serve the dessert.
  10. Cut into squares when well chilled and serve.

Buon Appetito!


See you on Thursday with ANOTHER great Italian dessert…why not?!
You’ll be ready for the holidays! I’d love your comments!


Tested in the THASC kitchen with Italian love!
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards & other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Zucchini Casserole

Zucchini Casserole
Zucchini Casserole

Rabbit Rabbit, everyone! Happy 1st of the month! Can you believe it’s already September? I thought a tasty end-of-summer recipe to inch us toward the new season would be delicious so I’m using my favorite vegetable, zucchini, which can never be too much for me! My dad taught me how to make this savory casserole when I was learning to cook (mostly from him) so I’d like to pass it on. Some of my friends already use it and love it. Hope you do too.

20150831_120431-1_resized20150831_135439-1-1_resizedLet’s start with the ingredients. (You do not have to use the brand names that I’ve included.)

  • 3 fresh zucchini sliced very thin
  • 20150831_120115-120150831_121126-12-3 Vidalia sweet onions sliced thin
  • 1 package of fresh basil
  • 1 bottle of Parmesan grated cheese
  • 1 bottle extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bottle of your favorite tomato sauce
  •  1 clove of minced garlic
  • 20150831_120558-120150831_115917-1_resized20150831_120730-1salt and pepper
  • 1 3qt. casserole dish with cover or similar

Set oven at 350

  1. Begin by lightly covering the bottom of the casserole dish with extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Make a layer of zucchini placing thin slices next to each other.
  3. Cover the layer of zucchini with sliced onions. You don’t need as many onions as zucchini.
  4. Sprinkle a small amount of minced garlic over the zucchini and onions.
  5. With a tablespoon, gently splash tomato sauce sporadically over the slices, taking care not to overuse sauce. (Each slice does NOT have to be covered. Please note: using too much sauce will drown your casserole after baking.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Rip 3 or 4 leaves of fresh basil into small pieces and scatter the basil leaf next over the sauce.
  8. Cover the layer by shaking fresh grated Parmesan cheese over it. It will get gooey during baking.
  9. Drip the olive oil over the cheese very lightly.
  10. Cover with another layer of zucchini and begin process 2-9 over again until the zucchini is used up. You should get about 4 layers if you use good-sized zucchini. You may need to slice another zucchini or onion to finish a layer.
  11. The top layer should end with just zucchini, sauce, cheese and basil.
  12. Bake at 350o for at least 1 ½ hours or until zucchini is soft.

Serve alone with fresh Italian bread or as a side dish for any main meat or fish course. Zucchini carries a lot of water which will make the tomato sauce become a thin and delicious gravy. Be sure to put a little of the thin sauce over each serving of casserole and top with a piece of fresh basil.

Guaranteed you’ll want to make it over and over again. Pass it on and join me on Thursday as we visit another Thasc artist.

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Made in the THASC  kitchen with Italian love.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Cotoletta di Pollo al Limone (Chicken Cutlet with Lemon)


You will always remember this recipe if you think of the month of FEBruary. The reason is that we are going to use the fabulous FEB formula for our coating!
Before we get to that step, let’s look at the ingredients:

  • 6-8 chicken cutlets, sliced thin
  • 1 meat mallet
  • 2-3 eggs beaten
  • ½ cup all purpose flour (I use Wondra)
  • 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • plastic wrap
  • 2 lemons quartered
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Large baking casserole dish (for lasagne)
  • Preheat oven to 350

Each cutlet should be placed between plastic wrap and pounded until it is about ¼ inch thick. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

20150706_152514-1 meat mallet

Now for our fabulous FEB formula:
Flour, Eggs, Breadcrumbs

I usually line up 3 dishes in that order. Place FLOUR in the first dish, EGGS in the second and BREADCRUMBS in the third.

Flour, Eggs and Breadcrumbs


Take each pounded cutlet and one by one, dust it in the flour on both sides shaking off the excess. Dip each cutlet in the egg to coat.Dip in the breadcrumbs to coat each side then set aside until you repeat the same with all cutlets.Coat the large baking dish with extra virgin olive oil. When you finish breading each cutlet, place each one in the baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes, and then flip them over to bake on the other side. When the cutlets look crispy (NOT BURNT!) place them side-by-side on a platter and place your quartered lemons around the edges. Serve with a side of pasta or rice and your favorite green vegetable. I love to cook broccoli rabe, but spinach or zucchini will also do.That’s all there is to it! A great, simple meal for a summer evening! Please note: I use the same foundation for chicken and/or eggplant Parmigiana. The only addition to make after the cutlets are baked is to top each cutlet with fresh mozzarella cheese until it melts, then your favorite sauce and sprinkle on some grated Parmigiana cheese. Garnish with parsley.


No matter which way you try the cutlets or eggplant,
you’ll never forget the month of February and the FABULOUS FEB FORMULA!

Buon Appetito!

Tested in the THASC kitchen. Photo by THASC.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Sausages, Peppers, and Onions

Sausage, pepper and onion sub
Sausage, pepper and onion sub
Anyone who has been to Fenway Park to see a Red Sox game probably goes there to eat at least one sausage, peppers and onions submarine sandwich which the vendors sell right outside the entrances to the park, making it easily inescapable to pass up one of these tasty delights. It’s for most who go to Fenway more of a tradition than eating a Fenway frank.

Vendors outside Fenway Park
Vendors outside Fenway Park
It’s a very simple recipe that you can whip up in about ½ hour using an outdoor grill or the top of your stove.
Here’s what you will need:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 Italian sweet sausages (if you prefer hot, then use them)
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 large orange bell peppers
  • 2 large yellow bell peppers (all peppers seeded and thinly sliced)
  • 2 medium sized onions thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil to garnish

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1. If you are browning the sausages on stovetop you will need about ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. If you are cooking them outside you just need your grill. Make sure sausages are cooked thoroughly in either case until they are brown all over.

2. Remove the sausages leaving a coating of juices and add the sliced peppers and onions. I prefer the colored peppers as they are sweeter and tastier than the green. They cost more, but they are worth it. Cook the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft (about 15 minutes)

3. After the peppers and onions are tender, return the sausages to the skillet, either whole or cut into pieces, and let the entire mixture simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

4. If you like, you may garnish with basil and serve immediately in Italian hard rolls or as a side dish.


This is a great summer dish and so easy to make. My 91-year-old Aunt Nancy still makes it and it is for us our family favorite! How about trying it this weekend?

Join me on Thursday for another look at my recent trip to Italy and the amazing treasures I was fortunate to see. Soon after we will see Donna Cushman’s greeting card painting “Peonies in Porcelain” as one of the precious artists of THASC Sales Co.

Buon Appetito!


Tested in the THASC kitchen. Photo by THASC.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Spaghetti alla Carbonara


In case many of you do not know the difference between prosciutto (ham) and pancetta (cured bacon), they come from different parts of the pig: prosciutto from the leg and pancetta from the underbelly. Both prosciutto or pancetta may be added to a recipe to give the dish more flavor, but they do have a distinctive taste. Pancetta is used in carbonara. You can find real pancetta in an Italian market or deli that specializes in Italian cold cuts and other foods.


To serve 4 people, you will need the following:

  • 1 lb. dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces finely diced pancetta
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter
  • Fresh parsley (optional as a garnish)

Please note: It is very important the spaghetti is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the spaghetti cooks the raw eggs on contact. Timing is everything!

  1. In a small bowl, cream the soft butter with a wooden spoon.
  2. In another bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks with a fork until they are well blended. Blend in ½ cup grated cheese and stir well to prevent lumps.
  3. Set bowls aside.
  4. Cook the spaghetti over high heat until firm to the bite, or al dente, about 7-10 minutes. Make sure strands do not stick together.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the pancetta, and fry until crispy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Pour off @ ½ of the fat and stir the heavy cream into the skillet.
  7. Bring the cream to a simmer and keep it warm until the spaghetti is cooked.
  8. When the spaghetti is firm to the bite, drain thoroughly in a colander.
  9. Transfer the spaghetti into a heated serving bowl or casserole dish and stir in the creamed butter, coating the spaghetti strands.
  10. Stir in the hot pancetta and cream mixture and finally the beaten eggs and cheese mixture, tossing everything together thoroughly until the eggs begin to thicken but are still creamy. (Do not scramble!)
  11. The heat of the spaghetti and other ingredients should cook the raw eggs on contact.
  12. Sprinkle with ground back pepper and salt if desired.
  13. Serve the carbonara at once. Garnish with fresh parsley
  14. Pass the remaining ½ cup of grated cheese at the table.
  15. Serve on warmed plate if possible.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Buon Appetito! Enjoy!

I would love to hear from you any suggestions on dishes that I may prepare for you. With summer around the corner we should look forward to some great garden vegetable dishes and pasta seafood dishes.

See you on Thursday!

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Insalata Caprese

Caprese Salad and Bruschetta with Caprese

Caprese Salad

These salads have practically the same ingredients so I have decided to include the recipes together as it will be impossible to get them mixed up. They can be served as a salad or an appetizer, the only difference being to add the toasted Tuscan bread to be served as the base to the Caprese. We’ll start with the Caprese salad which is simple to put together and will whet anyone’s taste buds.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 8 oz. buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced fairly thin
  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced about ¼ inch thick
  • a good bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • balsamic vinegar


  1. Alternate the cheese and tomato slices by putting down the tomato slice first.
  2. Top each slice of tomato with a slice of fresh mozzarella.
  3. You can either shred the basil leaves and sprinkle them over each piece of mozzarella or you can use the whole basil leaf and place it the same way.
  4. Continue to arrange the tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves in a circular wheel shape or line up each piece of tomato, mozzarella and basil on a platter to eat individually.
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.
  6. Drizzle the olive oil and the Balsamic vinegar over each piece, being careful not to saturate.
  7. Your guests may choose to add more vinegar or oil if desired.
Bruschetta con caprese

Bruschetta con caprese
Add to ingredients above:

  • 4-6 slices of Tuscan round loaf bread
  • 2 garlic cloves

Following the same directions for the Caprese salad above,

  1. toast the bread slices on both sides under the broiler until golden brown and rub each side with cut side of a clove of garlic. You may need more than one cut clove of garlic.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and cut the slices of toasted bread in half.
  3. Place the Caprese salad on top of the toasted bread in the same order: tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Great as an appetizer and takes only minutes to prepare!

See you on Thursday with another beautiful greeting card.

Buon Appetito! Enjoy!

Tested in the THASC kitchen. Photo byTHASC.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.

Easy Italian Recipes: Fettuccine Alfredo

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I bet most of you thought this dish was an Italian creation when in fact, as the story goes, it was created in 1914 by a chef named Alfredo di Lelio who was trying to cook something that would please his pregnant wife. This creation was a sauce made from Parmesan cheese and butter and poured over the fettuccine. In Italy it is called “Fettuccine al Burro” or fettuccine with butter. Mostly everywhere else besides the United States, it has no cream. Since American butter and Parmesan cheese lacked the richness of their Italian counterparts, cream was added to the sauce to make up for it. This version became an Italian-American classic, but it never caught on in Italy.

I use an old recipe for “besciamella” or cream sauce.
This is what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. fettuccine noodles (see sketch above)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour (I use Wondra quick mixing flour)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a very large saucepan of lightly-salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta and bring back to a boil and cook until firm to the bite (“al dente”)
  3. In a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet, melt the butter overmoderate heat, being careful that it doesn’t brown.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour a little at a time
  5. Pour the milk and the cream in all at once, whisking constantly until the flour is almost dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken.
  6. Return the pan to high heat and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk.
  7. When the sauce comes to a boil and is no longer lumpy, reduce the heat.
  8. Simmer, and continue stirring for two or three minutes longer until the sauce is thick and ready to coat the wires of the whisk.
  9. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  10. Drain the hot pasta and immediately pour it into the skillet and toss a couple of times making sure the noodles are well-coated by the cream sauce.
  11. Sprinkle 1 cup of the Parmesan over the noodles and toss the mixture again.
  12. Serve IMMEDIATELY passing the rest of the Parmesan around for topping.

Remember, in Italy if you ask for Fettuccine Alfredo, they probably won’t recognize the term the way we’ve Americanized it with cream and you’re most likely to get pasta with butter and Parmesan!

Either way, it’s delicious! Make some this weekend!

See you next week!