Recipes and Stories

1 August 2018: The Joys of Summer Minestrone

August 1, 2018

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Minestrone, Summer Vegetable Soup, Minestrone alla Romana, Ilda, Genovese Cooking

Classic Minestrone alla Romana. Summer in a bowl.
In all of cooking, nothing satisfies me in the summer, both in the making and the eating of it, quite the way that a pot of vegetable soup always does. Whether it’s my best shot at reproducing my grandmother’s soup (something I have never quite succeeded in doing) or a classic minestrone alla romana, it’s my idea of the ultimate summer comfort food.

Whenever I manage to get home for a visit, it’s the first thing Mama and I make together. It’s never exactly the same: The base is always tomatoes, onions, and okra, but while she was still gardening, we’d add whatever was ready to be harvested supplemented by the stash from two enormous chest freezers in the garage. (more…)

8 June 2017: Summer in a Bowl

June 8, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking, Genovese Cooking, Ilda, Fruit Salad

Macedonia di Frutta all' Ilda, a lovely blend of summer fruit enhanced with Maraschino liqueur and a splash of rum.
One of the great compensations for (and means of relief from) summer’s heat is a fresh mixed fruit salad. It’s also one of the most versatile dishes of the season. Call it “cocktail” and open the meal with it; call it “salad” and serve it as the meal’s side dish or even centerpiece (all on its own or blended with cold seafood, poultry, or meat); call it “Macedonia,” “fruit cup,” or “compote” and it brings the meal to a delightful close.

Whatever we call it, and however we serve it, a fragrant bowl of well-mixed and chilled fruit is perfect warm-weather fare: it stimulates, satiates, and cools as nothing else can. It brings a ray of sunshine to a rainy day and soothing coolness to days when the sun’s rays become relentless. (more…)

16 July 2014: Triple Comfort

July 16, 2014

Tags: Comfort Food, Vintage Tableware, Mama's China, Marcella Hazan, Ilda, Classic Italian Cooking, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Pasta

Triple comfort: my mother's china pattern, Ilda's pasta, and Marcella's voice in the background
My mother’s wedding china still stands as it did in my youth, in neat stacks in her dining room hutch. Rimmed in gold and sporting a pair of pink-tinged gardenia blossoms at its center, it was old-fashioned, feminine, and just plain “girly.” Yet it was the very essence of elegance and sophistication to my child’s mind. (more…)

4 February 2013: Ilda’s Ham and Potato Gratin

February 4, 2013

Tags: Ilda, Comfort Food, Ham and Potato Casserole, Historical Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Classic Italian Cooking

Ilda's casseruola al forno, or ham and potato gratin: comfort food in any language.
It was my first night in Italy. Our class had spent the day sketching in the picturesque port towns of Portofino and San Frutuoso. Soaked with Riviera sunshine and salty Ligurian air, we came back to the school, a villa that commanded its own picturesque view of the Bay of Genoa over the red-tiled rooftops of the old city. We were exhilarated, exhausted, and very hungry, as only active young people can be. (more…)

22 August 2012: Petti di Pollo al Forno

August 22, 2012

Tags: Ilda, Chicken, Baked Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Ham and Cheese, Ilda's Petti di Pollo al Forno, Genoa, Genovese Cooking

Ilda's "Petti di Pollo al Forno" has been a staple in my own kitchen for more than thirty years
It was 1978 and I was in Genoa, Italy, allegedly to study architecture. The truth, however, was that I spent far more time in the kitchen with Ilda, the Genovese woman who was our cook, than I did in studio—a fact that ought to have told me something, but that’s another story. (more…)