Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Italian Signs Craft Project

As a "mamma italiana" I am always looking for projects to do with my kids. This is a great one for the little helpers, but the payoff is the best part. With this easy Italian Sign Craft, you can create a great decor item for your house or even a great Christmas gift for your Italian amici.

For this craft, simply go to your local craft store and buy individual wood letters with a flat bottom. (They will need to stand flush on a wood base)

Spell out any of your favorite words, or even your last name!

For the base, any thin piece of flat wood will do. I chose a scrap from my garage, but for the size you'll need, you can find them at a home improvement store for next to nothing.

Place the letters onto the wood base as you want them to appear. Usually these letters have holes in the bottom so you can use a small screw to affix each letter to the base. otherwise, a strong wood glue will work just fine.

Allow to dry, then spray paint the entire piece in your color of choice. The finished product is just as nice as those fancy, expensive signs you find at home decor stores. I did the word "AMORE" for under $10.00.

These are great gifts too. If you know a family with not too long of a last name, you can really come up with a cheap yet thoughtful Christmas gift. Here are some more great word ideas:

Display your favorite place in Italy:
Italia, Roma, Venezia, Firenze, etc

These are great above the cabinets, on a shelf, or even on the counter. I display my "Amore" sign on my fridge!
Cucina, Cibo, Vino, Pasta, Salute, Amore

The possibilites are endless. If music is not your hobby, name whatever you love and display that!

This is such an easy project that costs nearly nothing but leaves a lasting impression. With the holidays around the corner, this could save you lots of shopping! Please comment with your word ideas......CIAO!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I don't know if it's the time of year or the fact that Italy is arguably the most beautiful place on earth...but I have been having these uncontrollable cravings for Italy.

I just want to be there. I don't care where in Italy (although the Ponte Vecchio in Florence could make for some great Christmas shopping!) I just want to be The air is different there. Perhaps it's the feeling you get being in a place where you can find the best of all Italian food on every corner. Then you can shop in the finest stores, see the most beautiful sights, and eat again! And just when you think you've eaten too much, it's time for an afternoon nap. Oh, how I long for the Italian lifestyle....

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy my American freedoms. It only takes one trip to Italy to realize that people only hang their clothes on the line to dry because washers/dryers are rarely found in homes. No one's taking that modern convenience away from me, no sir. You won't see me washing three kids' laundry by hand and drying each piece on my balcony.

So, for that reason alone (Okay, and maybe a few others) I don't think I could live in Italy all year long.

But spending 6 months a year in a vacation villa in Tuscany? Now you might have me convinced. I think the following pictures could twist anyone's arm. These were taken by my very talented Aunt Josie, who has a great eye with the camera.

Don't tell me you aren't craving a trip to Italy now......

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Homemade Bread Recipe

There's nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. It always reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen. Somehow - without any measurements or calculations - she got it just right every time. And even though I've tried making it myself, it never turns out like hers. Hers was the best.

But while spending this week visiting with my sister-in-law, I must admit that her recipe comes in a close second. We (actually, she) spent most of the afternoon mixing, kneading, and baking fresh loaves of bread to feed all twelve of us. (There are eight children between our two families!)

But even with a full house we can always find time for buon cibo. Having several little helpers is always a bonus! My daughter, who we call the "carb machine," (she lives for pasta and bread) enjoyed making and eating it more than anyone.

This recipe is so easy and very tasty. It makes a great sponge for soaking up your favorite pasta sauce....


1 TB extra virgin olive oil

2 TB salt

3 1/2 cups very warm water

4 1/2 TSP (or two packages) yeast

7 cups of flour

Dissolve yeast completely in the warm water. In a separate large bowl, combine salt and olive oil. Add five cups of flour. Add the yeast/water mixture. Mix thoroughly. Then add remaining two cups of flour while mixing.

Knead until springy and a nice dough is formed. Grease the sides and bottom of the bowl, replace dough. Let rise (covered) for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Once risen, think of something that makes you very angry, then punch the dough down with your fist. Knead again. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead again (Trust me , it's worth it). Divide the dough into four equal parts. Knead each ball of dough individually.

Grease two sheet pans with olive oil & butter and sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll out each ball into a large rectangle. Then roll the dough lengthwise, folding the ends and pinching the seams as you roll. Once rolled, smooth out the loaf by rolling it a few times on the floured surface to ensure that there are no holes in the loaf. Place loaves on pan(s) and let rise for about 40 minutes.

Once risen, set oven to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.

Makes four loaves total.

You will surely want to double the recipe since it will likely be halfway gone as soon as it's out of the oven.

Even if you aren't a "carb machine," freshly baked bread is irresistible.

Don't believe me? I think my nephew's face says it all----->

"Che bellisima!"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini

October 17, 2008

Today is a very special day for Italians.....It is the feast of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini - the very first American citizen to become a saint. And guess what? She was Italian!

Born Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850, her health was bad from the beginning. She was brought straight to the church for baptism. No one ever thought she would lead a long life of tremendous influence.

In Italy, She lived in the village in Sant' Angelo on the outskirts of Lodi, about 20 minutes from Milan. As a child she dreamed of becoming a missionary. In play, all of her dolls became nuns. When she got older, she was schooled in Italy and graduated with honors as a teacher.

The rest of her life brought many travels around the world. At the age of 27, she took her vows and became the mother superior of an Italian orphanage. This was just the beginning of her influential social work.

In 1889, she was moved to New York without knowing a word of English. She learned the language and helped the Italians who had immigrated there already. In 1909, after years of teaching and caring for the sick, she fulfilled her desire to become an American citizen.

In her lifetime, she founded sixty-seven hospitals, orphanages, and schools around the world. Because of her social outreach to the Italians in both Italy and America, she is known widely as the patron saint of immigrants and schoolteachers.

Mother Cabrini has sent a strong message to Italian-Americans throughout her life and even now, after her death. She was undoubtedly a strong woman with a big heart who conquered many obstacles of her time for selfless reasons. It seems that what these strong women of history have in common is that they are always giving. All of the talents she acquired were used to help others.

Much like a mother, she ruled over her postulants, she cared for her sick 'children,' and she helped to teach people of all ages. So in her own way, Mother Francis Xavier Cabrini was a very special "una mamma italiana!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This post announces the debut my very own "button" on! Go to the site (which is extremely informative, by the way) and then look for the link to my articles on the left hand side. It is labeled none other than "Una Mamma Italiana." There may only be two articles right now, but watch out, people....there are many more stories stored in una mamma italiana's crazy mind.

So please take a look! You'll find my bio and many future articles about everything Italian. And please note: these articles will all be different that those seen in my column for La Voce! So everything there is new and exciting!
And since I can write about pretty much anything I want, it should be quite interesting!
For direct access to my "home page" on italiansrus, click here.

CIAO for now!

Monday, October 13, 2008

To Rinse Or Not To Rinse

Even if you're not Italian, I'm pretty sure you've boiled a pot of pasta before. But who would have thought that such an event could jeopardize a marriage....

Situation #1: My husband loves to rinse the pasta after it has drained. I think that is simply sacrilegious. He can't stand the taste of it not rinsed. I can't stand cold pasta that tastes like tap water. If I'm not tossing it in sauce right away (see situation #2), then I at least prefer to toss it in olive oil, without rinsing. I've consulted my cousin (a grad of the Culinary Institute) on this one. He says rinsing is reserved only for those desperate moments where you fear you've overcooked the pasta and must stop the cooking process at all costs. Note the term: "desperate."

Situation #2: My husband does not like his pasta tossed in the sauce. Now this problem, though severe, is not as bad as the first because he has relented many times over the years. Nonetheless I still find myself dishing out a plate of plain pasta for him before I toss the rest.

To me, this is just plain disgusting. Why would you want only some of your pasta to have sauce? You're just going to end up mixing it in your plate anyway....and it's like our parents always told us when we couldn't have foods touch in the plate - it's all going to the same place anyway. So why use it as a topping? You might as well not even call it sauce. It would then have to be classified among things like chocolate syrup and honey. As if sauce was meant to be drizzled slightly over a plate of plain pasta? What nonsense!

So you might have assumed that I prefer to toss my unrinsed pasta in the sauce before serving. That is only normal...which, of course, makes my husband weird. (which is no secret, people)

Needless to say pasta night has turned into a battle in our house. Each of us races to the sink after the pasta has drained. I usually have one of the kids distract him. He usually pretends like he wants to "help me out" by taking over pasta duty. But by now we've learned each other's sneaky tricks.

And although I love my picky, Americanized husband, I must quote Sarah Palin and say, "Never again to his selfish rinsing plot disguised as a help offering. Never again will I be taken advantage of."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

All Natural Air Freshener

Spending hours cooking a good meal should not mean spending hours with it's lingering smell. It's one thing to smell garlic cooking when you walk in for dinner....but all night long? That can be annoying. And it's the worst when you've fried something. For example, I made a rather large batch of polpettini yesterday and have been smelling the grease ever since.
The cure? An all natural air freshener....

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.


cinnamon sticks

groung ginger

ground cloves


lemon peel

Let simmer.

I do this after a big meal and it makes the house smell so cozy! It's the perfect scent for the coming season too! And it lasts....I leave the pot covered and re-use it all day long. Just turn on the heat when you need a stronger scent. But you'll be surprised at how fast this freshens up your home!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Italians are different

Let's face it, we love 'em, but too many "med-e-gones," (also known as "americans") are not quite like a good old Italian friend.....

American friends: never take your food.
Italian friends: are the reason you have no food.

American friends: call your mother "Mrs..."
Italian friends: call your mother "mamma."

American friends: have never seen you cry.
Italian friends: cry with you.

American friends: will call first, then knock on your door.
Italian friends: will walk right in, then open your fridge.

American friends: borrow your stuff for a few days then give it back.
Italian friends: borrow your stuff so long they forget it's yours.

American friends: know a few things about you.
Italian friends: could write a novel with direct quotes by you.

American friends: have mothers who formally invite you over for dinner.
Italian friends: have mothers who threaten you to eat dinner before you wither away to nothing.

American friends: are for a while.
Italian friends: are for life.

American friends: will read this and giggle.
Italian friends: will read it and send it to their mother, father, cousin, aunt, uncle and neighbor.....and then say they wrote it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Anyone who has been to Italy and asked for ice may be able to relate to me with this one. If not, you are about to learn a very important lesson.

So we're sitting outside at an Italian restaurant in the summer. As you can imagine, the mediteranean weather had us hot and "sudato" (sweaty). To cool off, we did what any average American would do - we asked for some ice cold water. A simple request, right?


In Italy, like in many European countries, they drink water at room temperature because it is essentially healthier for you. You can drink larger quantities when it's not so cold (allowing for good hydration). Also, drinking water at room temperature increases your metabolism (so they say). So from a health perspective, you might begin to understand why "ice cold" is not the norm.....

Unless, of course, you were still hot and growing increasingly irritated.

So after getting our glasses of water, we had to call the "cameriere" (waiter) over again to ask for some "ghiaccio" (ice). <-----find out how to ask for ice in the 'word of the week' on the sidebar! So anyway, when all is said and done, the waiter brings out some ice (I'm talking 4 cubes for a table of 6 people) on a plate. Yes, a plate. And as I said before, the weather was hot so you can imagine that this little bit of ice didn't last long. But hey, at least we learned our lesson, right?

Take our word for it and don't make this same mistake in your travels. That way you'll keep whatever dignity an American tourist in Italy has!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Le Cinque Palle - An Italian Life Lesson

Everyone knows Italians got it figured out, but in case you had any doubts, read on:
Le Cinque Palle
The Lesson of The Five Balls:
Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to realize that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls - family, health, friends, integrity - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of "le cinque palle," you will have achieved the beginnings of balance in your life.
Life is precious, and so is la famiglia. So try to keep this going, email it to friends via the little envelope link under this post. After all, it is a lesson that is sometimes hard to remember, and sometimes harder to learn.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Columbus Day Crafts

As we all know, Columbus Day is coming up and it's a great opportunity for us to celebrate our Italian Heritage. Wondering what to do? How about some fun holiday crafts:

Colored Pasta Flags

A great way to teach the kids colors, types of pasta,
and even the flags!

Soak dried pasta in a bowl of water and a few drops of food
coloring for 1-2 minutes.
Remove pasta, drain on a paper towel. (Repeat this step with a variety of pastas and colors)

Glue the colored pasta on cardboard in the design of the Italian and American flags, using fettucine as the flagpole.

Display as Columbus Day decoration!

Easy Italian Coasters

These are the easiest thing to make, and would be a great favor/giveaway for your guests. You can find tiles like these for 35 cents, paint them, and seal them with a spray polyurethane. Line the bottom with felt (glue it on) and you're good to go!

Italia Trivets

These can become a really classy creation. Find your favorite photo of Italy, or paint your own. When you paint it or glue it onto the tile, spray with two coats of polyurethane spray. Let dry. Line the bottom with felt. The perfect trivet for those hot pots of pasta!

Crafts are a great learning tool for kids and adults alike! These simple crafts with an Italian twist will make Columbus Day a feast to remember! Check out more celebration ideas here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pollo Romano

After Romano and Parmigiano tied in the poll, I promised a tribute post to each cheese. Now for Romano's -

Pollo Romano

This is a very simple and quick recipe for chicken with a cheesy, creamy sauce. It is such a quick fix for those nights that you have to whip dinner up in a breeze and it is almost impossible to mess it up. So here it goes:

Trim, de-vein, and season four chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and italian seasoning

Add a few TB olive oil to a skillet

Brown the chicken breasts on both sides

Add in 1-2 cups of heavy whipping cream

(Remember to watch your heat, I suggest keeping it on medium from here on out)

sprinkle a few heaping TB of grated romano cheese over the chicken until all of it is covered. While cooking, the cheese will melt into the cream and thicken it.

Let the cream bubble, the cheese melt, and the chicken cook all the way through (about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts)

When you plate the chicken, save all that creamy goodness to pour on top

OPTIONAL - at the end, you could put the whole pan under the broiler for a couple minutes and get that cheese really bubbling! (either way, though, you'll get a tasty gravy!)

See what I mean? Super Easy and very tasty. But that's no surprise considering romano makes everything taste great! Buon Appetito!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Results Are In

So as you may have seen, the poll is closed and the results are in for the Cheese Challenge and.......

It's a Tie!!!!!

Can you believe it? I guess the Italian American hearts are torn between Parmiggiano Reggiano e Pecorino Romano. (Can you really blame them?)

The freshly grated versions of both cheeses are pretty good, I'll even admit it (although Romano is my first love). But here's a little something that might change your mind.....

The above was a small (but hilarious) tribute to parmiggiano. Romano's tribute will come by way of a mouth watering recipe in the next couple of days...keep watching!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

She can hardly stand it...

The photo above is a touchingly sorrowful account of what anticipation can do to a child. My poor daughter sits in near despair over the "Favorite Cheese" poll on this blog. She is waiting in suspense for the results.....but aren't we all?

There are only eight hours left, people. Which will it be? Parmiggiano? Romano? I know you are all biting your nails, but let not your hearts be troubled......The best cheese will win, and we will announce it tomorrow, with a special recipe showcasing the winner. Stay tuned!
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