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Growing up in the farthest Northeast section of Philadelphia, my Italian father settled his last 37 years of life quite a distance from his family’s beginnings in South Philly.  Needless to say, this almost-a-suburb area of the city was just that – upper middle class, a little preppy and a lot more Anglo-Saxon than not.  Something like this very southern dish wasn’t in the rotation at my friends’ dinner tables.  In fact, it wasn’t until 2010, with my soon-to-be husband, that I first saw a look other than fright when mentioning this dish.  I knew he was a keeper when he not only had heard of it, but also looked forward to it.  FYI he’s a WOP, too.


Serves 2



2 zucchinis

1 shallot

5 tbsp olive oil, divided

½ tsp red pepper flakes

¼ lb spaghetti

½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano



  • In a large pot, boil salted water for spaghetti.

  • Thinly slice zucchinis and lie flat, without overlapping, on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt before covering zucchini with another layer of paper towels.  Press gently so that the towels will absorb excess water.  Set aside.

  • In a large frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat.  After removing and discarding paper towels, gently place zucchini slices into pan, making sure not to over lap.  Season with salt and pepper.  After they begin to sizzle, flip slices over to fry on other side.  Remove as they cook, draining on paper towels or cooling rack.

  • Continue to add remaining tablespoons of oil as needed to the pan, and continue the above step until all slices have been fried.

  • In the same pan, add the shallot and season with salt and pepper.  After about five minutes on medium low heat, or until the shallot has sautéed to a golden brown, add red pepper flakes.  Turn heat to lowest temperature to finish cooking.

  • Cook spaghetti in boiling water according to package directions, shy one minute.

  • When spaghetti is ready, drain from boiling water and place directly into frying pan.  Turn the heat up to medium.

  • Fold in zucchini and cheese, as well as enough olive oil to make sure the spaghetti will not stick. 

  • Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

As I’ve mentioned before, my childhood was slightly eccentric.  Not in the Addams Family type of way, but more so in the scenario of “oh, this doesn’t happen at your house, too?”  Case in point, I ate homemade pasta more often than boxed well into elementary school.  Making pasta was also an “activity” as opposed to, say, sidewalk chalk or playing dress-up.  Spying a white and green Corel mixing bowl with a damp dishtowel hanging over it meant only one thing: there was pasta dough resting in that bowl, and within the hour, my six-year-old hands would be covered in flour, cranking out linguini with my mom and making sure each and every noodle was separated on a folding table in the living room.  Fast-forward to 2009, I picked the habit back up and created this rudimentary recipe in my tiny Harlem kitchen.  Trying any last-ditch efforts to save a relationship that was going up in flames, I winged it and surprised myself with the unusual balance of the two sauces.  The relationship thankfully didn’t last, but these raviolis did.


Serves 2



1 cup flour

4 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)

1 tbsp olive oil

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp butter, room temperature

1 sprig fresh sage



Pasta dough

  • On a flat surface, pile the flour, making a well in the center.  Gently place yolks into the well.  Add a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil.

  • Break yolks while stirring into the flour, until all of the flour is wet.  Knead mixture into a ball, constantly working it until very pliable and smooth.

  • Cover with saran wrap or a damp dishtowel; set aside.


  • In a small sauté pan, heat balsamic vinegar on medium low.  Add mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper.  If needed, splash more vinegar into the pan until all slices are coated and cooked, about three minutes.

  • Drain mixture through a sieve or colander to cool.


  • Once dough has rested 20 minutes or longer, cut ball in half, and continue to work the dough on a lightly floured surface until the shapes become oval.  Using a crank machine, crank pasta though a couple of times until the sheets are paper thin.  If using a rolling pin, roll dough until the same desired effect.

  • Now that you have two long, skinny sheets of pasta, lie one sheet on top of a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Spoon filling onto on of the sheets, placing a teaspoon of the mixture every few inches; leave enough room between spoonfuls so that they have a rim of pasta around them.

  • Gently blot the remaining sheet of pasta with a wet paper towel; lie this sheet directly over the other one, wet side down.  Press out any air around the mounds.

  • Using the rim of a juice glass, press rim firmly down over each mound, thus creating the raviolis.  Save scraps for another use (soup noodles, pasta dinner, etc).

Sauce and compilation

  • Melt butter in same sauté pan over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper, then add olive oil and sage leaves.  Fry leaves until they are crispy, remove and drain.

  • Lower heat until butter begins to turn golden brown, then remove from heat.

  • Once the raviolis have been added to a pot of boiling, salted water, watch until they begin to rise o the surface.  This means they are cooked; remove from water and place directly into brown butter sauce.  Turn heat back on to low, gently folding raviolis into the sauce.  You may add any remaining mushroom filling to the pan as well.

  • Season with salt and pepper, then plate.  Shave a few pieces of pecorino on top.  Serve.

Have you picked up on the theme that I like fried zucchini?  It’s one of those underrated vegetables that sadly doesn’t get the airtime it deserves.  It’s versatile, flavorful almost year-round and inexpensive, yet this healthy green guy always seems to be left out.  Which is fine by me.  As I mentioned before, I’m from Philly and automatically an Eagles fan; I’m used to being the underdog.  As our wacky American culture continues to pile excuses to celebrate any National xyz Day, I wanted to make a hearty sandwich last time this particular “holiday” came by to visit.  Something sturdy enough for dinner, but playful enough to stand out from everyone else’s hoagies and grilled cheeses on Instagram.  Voila, I present this hefty Italian sandwich, which should become a classic in its own right.


Serves 2



1 zucchini

¼ flour

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small bunch sorrel

½ pound hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed and shaped into 2 patties

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 small ball burrata cheese

4 slices sourdough bread

1 tbsp butter, room temperature



  • Slice zucchini lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick.  Lie slices flat on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and cover with another paper towel to blot excess water.  Set aside.

  • In a medium sized frying pan, add olive oil and turn to medium heat.  Dust zucchini strips with flour, season with salt and pepper.  Fry slices until golden brown on each side, about three minutes.  Remove and drain on cooling rack or fresh paper towels.

  • In same pan, add sausage patties, season with salt and pepper, and raise heat to medium high, stirring occasionally.  As the sausage cooks and crisps, add red pepper flakes.

  • Once the sausage is cooked through, turn off heat and add sorrel greens to wilt.

  • Meanwhile spread butter over one side of each slice of bread.  Broil in the oven on high until toasted.  Remove immediately, to avoid burning.

  • Slice burrata into thick pieces; season with salt and pepper.

  • Build sandwiches as follows: toasted bread slice, sausage patty, wilted sorrel, burrata, zucchini.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with remaining slice of bread.  Serve.


About a month after I got married, which was only six months later since meeting my husband, I set out to make gnocchi.  The ricer I bought was chintzy and cheap, but I figured it would do.  It did not do.  Before my husband knew it, hot potatoes and the ricer they were caked into were angrily tossed into the waste bin.  He was smart enough to realize silence was the best policy until I reassessed a new plan of action.  Thus, I moved onto a polenta based dish that evening.  Also not a strong point at the time, but thankfully over the last five years I have improved at both polenta and gnocchi.  This is a great little meal that can be based on or off the grill, but if it’s warm enough for short sleeves, it’s grill season at this home.  Pairing the grilled fish with the polenta brightens the dish and adds wonderful smoky char, the epitome of summer foods.


Serves 2



1 halibut filet

4 baby spring scallions

½ cup fresh peas

½ small shallot, thinly sliced

1 small bunch of dill, parsley, mint and basil

Juice of 1 mandarin orange

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup polenta

5 tbsp butter divided, room temperature

2 cups maitake mushrooms, roughly chopped



  • In a small ramekin, place freshly shelled peas and add rice wine and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

  • Prepare a charcoal grill to medium hot.  Let flames die down so that they are no longer reaching through the grate.

  • Following Bon Appetit’s easy method for grilling fish, prepare halibut in the simplest manner: brush each side with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  Please fish skin side down on grill, and leave until the sides of the fish are opaque, about five minutes.  Gently flip fish and leave for one minute.  Remove from heat.

  • Drizzle scallions with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place directly on grill, turning over once each side has time to char.  Set aside to cool slightly.

  • In a small bowl, combine pea mixture, mandarin juice, shallot, salt and pepper.  Slice grilled scallions and add.  While whisking the dressing, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Set aside.

  • In a small sauté pan, quickly sauté mushrooms in 2 tbsp butter, seasoned with salt and pepper on medium heat until just warm.  Add a splash of olive oil to taste. 

  • Add polenta to 3½ cups boiling salted water, whisking constantly.  Once the polenta has absorbed all of the water, turn the heat to low and add remaining butter and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.

  • Plate polenta, then top with fish.  Evenly distribute dressing, then cover with fresh herbs.  Serve.

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